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review 2018-05-15 17:40
My ninety-ninth podcast is up!
Barbarians in the Greek and Roman World - Erik Jensen

Podcast #99 is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview historian Erik Jensen about his book on the idea of barbarians in the ancient world and the insights they offer into Greek and Roman concepts of identity. Enjoy!

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text 2014-10-10 20:37
Reading in Progress: Greek and Roman Ghost Stories, and also, (sigh), My Startling Problem
Greek and Roman Ghost Stories - Lacy Collison-Morley

So here's the deep, dark, not-really-secret - I startle ridiculously easily. The problem is mostly that when I'm really into reading something I'm focused on it entirely, and not really paying any attention to things around me. This means I can easily miss things like someone trying to catch my attention, the train station where I meant to exit, that the sun has suddenly set - you get the idea. But it also means that if I'm sitting and reading, and you walk up to me from the side I'm going to hop. As in, up, out of my chair, possibly landing back in my chair or on my feet. (If I'm standing I've been known to clear over a foot or two off the ground.) Now, I realize that this is indeed hysterical. (I can feel the expression on my face, and I'm certain it's also funny.) I kinda wish I could stop doing it. ...But I'm also not really going to work much at trying because yeah, not sure how. I like falling into a book like that.

 

That's all lead up to the fact that I did this today while waiting to get my hair cut. I quickly said "oh, oops! I was reading ghost stories!" Because I also had kinda made a gasping noise. (Dammit.) The really annoying thing?! They are not at all scary ghost stories.

 

More background: When I'm in my own fully decorated apartment, you'll see scattered around the place tons of Halloweenish decor such as skulls, bats, skeletons, etc. I have bookshelves full of anthologies of ghost stories, not to mention fiction and nonfictional books on death, vampire, film monsters - you get the idea. None of these things startle me, and in fact feel quite homey.

 

So you might wonder at this point, what exactly was I reading about that I was so absorbed by? It's not like I'd suggest rushing to read this book - Greek and Roman Ghost Stories, which is here on Gutenberg - because no, not scary, and it's not really a re-telling of stories. It's more of a series of essays citing random classical authors that mention ghosts. (More on that in the actual review. Eventually.)

 

Here's a couple of quotes I was pondering at the eek-startle moment. The first is longer so you can get an idea of the writing style - the book was published in 1912.

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review 2013-12-13 07:44
Greek Mythology with a Victorian Flavour
Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable - Thomas Bulfinch

~~Moved from GR~~

 

The Age of Fable

by Thomas Bullfinch

 

No matter what other versions of the Greek myths you've read, there's a certain quaint charm to Bullfinch's take on the stories. Written in the 1850s, the book opens with a forward in which Bullfinch attempts to argue the value of mythology. He notes that without some background in mythology, the allusions of the famous poets will simply whizz over a reader's head, and also adds that despite its pagan beginnings, mythology contains pure and valuable moral lessons. He then proceeds to retell some of the most famous Greek stories, noting and laboriously explaining various later poetical allusions to each tale from writers such as Milton, Keats, Shakespeare, and more.

There's something rather precious about the Victorian writer's obvious discomfort with certain aspects of the myths. For one thing, Bullfinch has to work quite hard to extract his moral lessons; no matter how much you bowdlerize them, the major aesop of most Greek myths is, let's be honest, that you'd better "put out" whenever requested or someone is going to turn you into a tree. I also rather admire the complex feats of literary doublespeak that Bullfinch employs when handling the stories involving same-sex love; he does his best to either portray such relationships as (very) close "friendships" or simply obfuscates the pronouns. I had to laugh at his version of Sappho, as he tells the entire story without once revealing the gender of her lover.

I also found his emphasis rather interesting. The book is supposed to be a collection of myths and fables from around the world, yet almost the book focuses on Greek mythology (or, I suppose, Roman myths, as Bullfinch uses all the Roman names. Personally, I found that rather irritating as I had to keep translating them in my head.) After 35 chapters of Greek mythology, Bullfinch decides on a brief world tour--one chapter on Egyptian mythology, one chapter on "Eastern" mythology, three chapters on Norse mythology, and one chapter for the Celts. This actually can be seen as emblematic of the era; during Bullfinch's time, the Romans were venerated as having created a Utopian society that was lost to the dark ages, and--at least, according to the British--regained by Victoria's imperialistic regime. The fascination with Romans is then something of a self-congratulatory belief that the Victorian world recreated the splendour of the ancients.

Overall, Bullfinch's book exemplifies the Victorian attempt to both venerate and sterilize ancient folklore. Although perhaps not precisely true to their originals, I think Bullfinch's stories have a charm all their own.

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review 2013-07-08 19:43
Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake
Antigoddess - Kendare Blake

Antigoddess is unlike anything I've read before. A fresh, creative, and engaging take on mythological gods and goddesses in the modern world, this third novel from Kendare Blake is sure to both wow current fans and earn her many more.

It's normal and completely expected to see novels and films that feature mythology, gods, and goddesses set in places and time periods that fit the stories and legends on which they are assumed to have taken place. Blake departs from this expected and well-established pattern, instead putting the gods and goddesses of myth into the modern world. A world in which they clearly do not fit in and where their meddling and use of humans garners very different reactions than during the historical periods in which they flourished. In one passage, Hera wreaks destruction on Chicago. The attack is speculated to be terrorist related; there isn't even the smallest mention of the wrath of a goddess as a potential cause of leveled buildings and multiple deaths.

I've always had an interest in mythology, but, at the same time, gods and goddesses have always seemed rather one-dimensional. They were motivated by simple desires and their personalities were very straight forward. They didn't have the complexity of, for example, human heroes featured in their stories. In Antigoddess, Blake gives these characters more malleable shapes and complex personalities, in a way, humanizing them. They are still very much set apart from humans, having living countless years and experiencing the invincibility of eternal life, but Blake creates a situation in which they are brought down from the throne of godliness. Suddenly, these timeless beings are forced to face the possibility of an end... of death. Death not only humanizes them, it makes them feel small... vulnerable... emotional... accountable. Through this unique premise, Blake's novel says something very important about the nature of humanity.

Even a reader who knows very little about mythology will enjoy and be able to understand the importance of the gods and goddesses featured in Antigoddess. Blake weaves a significant amount of detail, leading the reader to bits of information and background deatil without becoming overwhelming or falling into the habit of dropping large amounts of overwhelming information on the reader.

I highly recommend this first installment in The Goddess War series. With Antigoddess, Blake sets the scene for the series to reach epic proportions and I can't wait to see where she takes readers next.

Source: thehidingspot.blogspot.com/2013/07/review-antigoddess-by-kendare-blake.html
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text 2012-10-09 01:40
Goddess Girls Series Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

 

Goddess Girls Series Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

 

Book 1

 

 Athena the Brain ★★★

 

ATHENA HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOVE AVERAGE. She's never quite fit in at Triton Junior High, but who would've guessed that Athena is actually a goddess? Principal Zeus's daughter, to be exact. When she's summoned to Mount Olympus Academy, Athena thinks she might actually fit in for the first time in her life. But in some wa ys, school on Mount Olympus is not that different from down on Earth, and Athena is going to have to deal with the baddest mean girl in history, Medusa!

 

Book 2

 

 Persephone the Phony

 

AS PERSEPHONE'S MOTHER ENCOURAGES HER to do, she often "goes along to get along" instead of doing what she really wants. But when she meets Mount Olympus Academy bad-boy Hades, she finally feels she has found someone with whom she can be herself. He's the first person who actually listens to her, and she finds herself liking him, despite the fact that the other goddessgirls think he's bad news. But if he makes her feel so special and so comfortable can he really be all that bad?

 

Book 3

 

Aphrodite the Beauty

 

Aphrodite is sick of the attention from all the godboys and worries about her good friend Athena. So, she decides to give Athena a make over! It all works out until Aphrodite's crush Ares starts paying more attention to Athena than to Aphrodite.

 

Book 4

 

 Artemis the Brave

 

Naturally everyone at Mount Olympus Academy thought Artemis was brave simply because she was an excellent archer and the "goddess of the hunt," but if they could read her mind when they were in the Forest of the Beasts on a Beast-ology assignment for Professor Ladon, they'd think otherwise. She could almost hear them now: "My, godness, we never knew Artemis was such a wuss."

 

Book 5

 

Athena the Wise

 

Principal Zeus asks Athena to help Heracles (aka Hercules in the Roman pantheon) complete his twelve labors. But when Heracles starts borrowing Athena's friends things without asking, will she be able to help him set things straight?

 

Book 6

 

Aphrodite the Diva

 

An exchange student from Egypt, Isis, is encroaching on Aphrodite's match-making turf. Will she also edge Aphrodite out of her group of friends?

 

Book 7-

 

Artemis the Loyal

 

It's time for the annual Olympic Games, and the four goddessgirls are not happy! It's boys only and the girls at MOA are not pleased. Led by Artemis, Athena, Persphone and Aphrodite, the ladies of Mount Olympus hatch a plan to get Zeus to open up the games to everyone. Will they succeed--or end up watching from the sidelines again?

 

Book 8

 

Medusa the Mean

 

Medusa is sick and tired of being the only mortal at Mount Olympus Academy. Not only is she surrounded by beautiful, powerful, immortal classmates, but she also has snakes for hair and a reputation for being mean. Immortality, she thinks, will solve everything. So when she finds out about a necklace that promises just that, she’s sure it will help her get the two things she covets most: to be as popular as the four Goddess Girls and to have her supercrush, Poseidon, finally notice her. But when the necklace brings about popularity in the totally wrong way, things go from bad to worse. Can Medusa overcome her “meanie” status and prove that there’s more to her that meets the eye?

 

Book 9

 

 

Pandora the Curious Release Date- December 4, 2012

 

Is Pandora about to open up a box of trouble? One of the few mortals at Mount Olympus Academy, Pandora is famous for her mega quizzical nature, not that she thinks there’s anything wrong with being curious, of course! Her curiosity kicks into high gear when a godboy named Epimetheus brings a mysterious box to school. Epimetheus is the nephew of an MOA teacher in whose class Pandora once opened another box that sent a few weather disasters to earth. Still, Pandora can’t help but take a peek inside this new box when it unexpectedly lands in her lap. What could be the harm in that, right? Little does she know that opening the box will open up far more trouble than she ever expected!

 

Book 10

 

The Girl Games

 

Athena, Medusa, Artemis, and Persephone are sick and tired of being left out of the annual boys-only Olympic Games. Their solution? The Girl Games! But as the Goddess Girls work to make their dream into a reality, they come up against plenty of chaos and competition.

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