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Search tags: the-riddle-of-the-labyrinth
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review 2015-01-18 19:04
The Riddle of the Labyrinth
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code - Margalit Fox

The pull of an undeciphered ancient script comes not only from the fact that its discoverer cannot read it, but also from the knowledge that once long ago, someone could.

As someone who had no previous knowledge of the discovery of Linear B and the eventual deciphering of it, this book was absolutely fascinating. I decided to read this after seeing a positive review of the book. I was wary that the book was going to be dry and somewhat boring but I needn't have worried because this was a vibrant yet informative book.

 

Margalit Fox covers not only Alice Kober but also Sir Arthur Evans and Michael Ventris. All three played critical roles in the discovery or eventual deciphering of Linear B. I liked that while Fox tended to focus on Kober, she also spent plenty of time discussing Evans and Ventris. The author shows a clear disdain for Evans and I feel like her disdain really overtakes her section on Evans. Fox also shows a sort of disdain towards Ventris and really drives home her point that he would never have been able to decipher Linear B without Kober's previous work on the subject. While Fox clearly admires the work that Kober has done I was glad that that her section on Kober didn't turn into hero worship.

 

Reading this book has made me want to know more about Linear B and also the still undeciphered Linear A. Fox mentions other books that have discussed these topics and they all seem so fascinating and I look forward to one day reading those as well.

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text 2015-01-17 16:50
The Magical Tbr Jar Returns

I have read all the ARCs that I had to read for January and was wondering what to read next. Then I remembered my magical tbr jar (at least it was magical last year) which I have neglected for a bit. So I put all the books in the jar (the titles, not the books themselves) that I had not yet put in there and made my first pick of 2015, which turned out to be:  The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. I am going to try to stop adding so many books to my tbr pile and really make a dent in the jar. I will still be reading ARCs here and there but I am also going to try cutting back a bit on those too.

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text 2014-09-01 20:00
August Roundup
84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code - Margalit Fox
The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny
Garment of Shadows - Laurie R. King
Blood of Tyrants - Naomi Novik
Bath Tangle - Georgette Heyer
Search The Dark - Charles Todd

Best reads this month: an old reliable (84, Charing Cross Road) and a non-fiction, The Riddle of the Labyrinth.

 

No worst read: nothing was under a three.

 

I read four books in series I follow, by Louise Penny, Laurie R. King, Naomi Novik, and Charles Todd - two historical mysteries, a modern-day mystery, and one 'Napoleonic Wars with dragons' alternate history.  (Yeah, I like mysteries.)  Also a Georgette Heyer.

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text 2014-08-31 19:54
August Book a Day #31: Best Read of the Month
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code - Margalit Fox
84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff

It was a tie - only The Riddle of the Labyrinth is a new read, though.  84, Charing Cross Road is an old reliable.

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review 2014-08-28 18:25
The Riddle of the Labyrinth
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code - Margalit Fox

A very interesting book on how Linear B (one of three ancient scripts found on Crete - the other two, Minoan hieroglyphic and Linear A, remain a mystery, alas) was deciphered.

 

Sir Arthur Evans, who discovered the ancient Minoan civilization at Knossos in 1900, gets three chapters.  Alice Kober, an American classicist who did important work on the script in the 1930s and 1940s (and made some crucial discoveries), gets five.  Michael Ventris, the English architect who broke Linear B in the early 1950s, gets four chapters.

 

Alice Kober is followed lovingly and in detail.  The author is clearly less interested in Evans and Ventris, but she may well have concluded that their work is more heavily trodden ground.  I've been interested in the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and Linear B since the late 1970s, but had never heard of Kober, for example.  So perhaps she was justified in giving Kober such coverage.  But it did make the material on Ventris seem a little lacking in comparison.

 

I was fascinated by how "dog in the manger" all the archaeologists were.  Evans: "I have 2000 Linear B tablets, but you can only use the 200 I published in 1909 to work with until I finish the big book on the subject.  Have fun, kids!"  Myre, Evans' associate: "You still can't have them until I finish the master's book!  Unless you want to do my secretarial work."  Carl Blegen: "You can't have my tablets from Pylos, because they're in a Greek bank vault and I really hope the Nazis haven't taken them."  (OK, I'll buy that one.)

 

I also enjoyed the epilogue on what the tablets, when deciphered, turned out to be written about.  (Hint: it wasn't high literature.  Or low literature, for that matter.  Try: bureaucracy is eternal.)

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