Or something. Felt like posting about the books I’ve bought recently. Which I’ll hopefully get through this summer. Or most of them. Or at least some of them. (I still have to read the rest of two books I read bits of for last semester’s final paper first…)
First, the only one I’ve actually already read. (It’s a paperback, so I can read it in the bath.) The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth. (There should be umlauts over the o in Schonwerth, but I don’t know how to do umlauts in my browser.) Schonwerth lived from 1810 to 1886, and was gathering these folk tales during the 1850s. So what’s “newly discovered” about them is that his manuscripts were believed to have been lost, until they were discovered in 2009. (Which I suppose isn’t all that “newly” anymore…) These tales are sometimes more brutal than the uncensored Grimm tales (but only sometimes) but some of them are also quite sweet. There are a lot of folkloric motifs in here, as you would expect, and I kept finding myself noticing them as I read, particularly because of some of the unexpected combinations of motifs. Best of all, there are comments at the back on all the tales, addressing some aspect or other of each tale. I haven’t read all of the commentary yet, because I’ve forgotten what was in some of the earlier tales, so I need to go back and re-read each tale, then read its comments. (Though goodness knows when I’ll have time for that!) But I wanted to share two bits from the commentary. First–though it’s from a later story–the opening sentence of the commentary on “The Clever Tailor”:
The title figure of this folktale has no redeeming virtues whatsoever.
It’s so true! I was quite shocked by the protagonist’s murderous behavior. (Especially since he was presented as the “hero” of the tale, rather than the villain.) Moving backwards through the collection to a lengthy part of the commentary for “King Goldenlocks”:
The term blond(e) is most likely related to the Latin blandus, which means “charming,” making the word all the more apt for fairy-tale princes. As fairy-tale scholar Marina Warner has pointed out, the term has a “double resonance,” signifying both light coloring and beauty and thereby overlapping with the English usage of fairy as beautiful or pleasing: “Blondeness and beauty have provided a conceptual rhyme in visual and literary imagery ever since the goddess of Love’s tresses were described as xanthe, golden, by Homer.”
That, no doubt, is why the Iliad also used the same word to describe Achilles’ locks! Most of the heroes and gods that were supposed to be attractive in Greek myth were described at one time or another with xanthos, in fact. And Amazons were often described as red-haired (which would have been the same word in Greek) and probably one of the reasons for that was because they were desirable as well as dangerous outsiders.
So, moving on, the next book on the list, which I’ve partially read, is actually a library book on interlibrary loan. Due back the 21st, but I’ll finish it long before then! (Though I’ll probably renew it so I can keep my post-it notes in it until the copy I’m going to buy arrives and I can just transfer ’em right over.) It’s called The Ahhiyawa Texts, and it’s by…well, to call it “by” someone is somewhat of a misnomer, really. It’s a collection, translation and analysis of all the Hittite texts that mention the Ahhiyawa, a people now almost universally accepted to have been the Mycenaean Greeks. (According to the introduction, there only seems to be one scholar still denying it.) The book is so freaking cool that if I start talking about it, it will take over the post! Besides, I’m going to give a long post about it when I finish it. But it is totally awesome.
So, moving on…and I think I’ll make the rest a bulleted list to keep from going on as excessively as above. (Should be easier, since I haven’t read these yet!)
- Tales of Superhuman Powers: 55 Traditional Stories from Around the World by Csenge Virag Zalka. I’ve been following her blog since I found it during the April A-to-Z, and when I saw she had put out a book, I went to Amazon, checked out the “look inside” sample, and said to myself “Yes, I must read this!” This one’s at the top of my to-read list.
- Barbarians: An Alternative Roman History by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira. Found this at a used store, and had to pick it up, because my parents are crazy. They’re always taping the boring kind of documentary, and expecting my brother and I to come over to their place and sit down and watch it with them. (Even though they’ve already watched it and know it’s boring. Or should know it’s boring, anyway.) But when they rented the BBC documentary that accompanied this book, they watched it without us and sent it back. Despite that since this one was Terry Jones it would actually be interesting! The last one they made us watch featured this dull old man who insisted on being on camera almost all the time, and kept whispering, like he was afraid the castles would hear him. Ugh. Interesting subject matter ruined. I’ll probably read this one towards the end of the summer, since I’m going to be taking a class on the fall of the Roman Republic next semester.
- The Scarlet Sisters: Sex, Suffrage and Scandal in the Gilded Age by Myra MacPherson. This is about two sisters who did amazing things like opening a brokerage in 1870, and one of them ran for President–despite that women did not yet have the vote!–with Frederick Douglass as her running mate! As I read the back of the book, all I could think was “Why the heck haven’t I heard of them before now?!” Obviously, I had to rectify that lack of knowledge right away! Also very high on my to-read list.
- The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature edited by M. C. Howatson. Okay, this used bookstore find isn’t so much a “to read” as a “to consult” since it has entries on things like architectural styles, historical figures, authors and places. (It also has entries on mythical figures, but I’ve got tons of stuff on those already. But I guess one more can never hurt.) I suspect this is actually a condensed version, though, given that it’s only a single volume. But for $10, I can’t really complain! (If I’d paid the original list price of $65, then I could complain.)
- Medieval People by Eileen Power. I tried buying this book once before, but the edition was so badly formatted that I couldn’t read it. (It wasn’t as cheap as it should have been, either, if I recall correctly.) This one, on the other hand, is formatted very nicely, and looks quite fancy to boot. (Plus it was used, so it was cheap.)
- The Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure by Robin Brooks. About the post-excavation (well, post-looting, really) journey of a Roman vase. Looks really fascinating. I got this at the first used bookstore (same place as the preceding two books, and the following two) and found a similar book at the second used bookstore (this time about a Greek piece depicting the death of Sarpedon which fell off the radar after being bought for a huge cash sum at auction), which somehow ended up in my brother’s purchase instead of mine, so I can’t list it. (I only showed it to him so he could read the back and see how cool it looked. I wasn’t expecting him to say “I think I’ll get it.” I’d been planning on getting it!)
- The War at Troy: What Homer Didn’t Tell by Quintus of Smyrna, translated by Frederick M. Combellack. I had no idea this translation (from the 1960s) existed before finding it at the used bookstore. But what the heck was up with the volume title? I get that Posthomerica might be a bit off-putting to the average reader, but what was wrong with “The Fall of Troy” like the 1913 translator used? (The recent translation used “The Trojan Epic,” which also works.) This title makes it look like “Homer” was purposefully keeping secrets, like there was some kind of conspiracy or something. Sheesh. Still, I’m curious to see how the translation handled some of the more key moments, and seeing what the introduction and notes say. Plus he used all the Greek names, even Aias!
- A Social History of Greece and Rome by Michael Grant. Okay, this one may have been a bit of a gamble. It might go in any number of directions, and not all the possible directions are good ones. But…it could also be a useful asset for researching a paper, or even one of my novels.
- Heroines by Norma Lorre Goodrich.
- Delphi and the Sacred Way by Neville Lewis. Because you can never have too many books about ancient Greek archaeology. Also one of my YAish novels has an important sequence at Delphi. Which is anachronistic, because I ended up describing historical Delphi (essentially) instead of Late Bronze Age Delphi, but…the Heroic Age is, properly, a combination of the actual Late Bronze Age and the Historic Age that recorded the myths. Or that’s my excuse, anyway.
- Njal’s Saga. Which doesn’t list an author, so the author must be unknown.
- Everybody’s Pepys: The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1660-1669. We’ll see if I actually end up reading this version, since it’s abridged. But it’s from 1926, according to the publication page, so…actually, I think the page just left off some of the publication history. There’s no way a book from 1926 originally cost over $2. This edition is probably actually more like a 1960s re-print of a 1926 edition, now that I think about it. Let’s see…there’s a list of other editions in the same line on the back…okay, that took too long, so I just searched Pepys on Goodreads, and it turns out this reprint is from 1963. Which probably makes the price I paid a bit much…but not all that much, really; 1963 is still pretty old. (Then again, that Quintus edition was only $10, and it was from the 1960s.) Hmm. Part of me wants to go back to the store and say “hey, this is actually a much more recent edition, so wasn’t this price too high?” and part of me feels like that would be rude. Plus they probably overpaid when they bought it, having mistakenly believed the publication page. Anyway! That doesn’t matter. The point is that I’ve been wanting to read the Pepys diary for a while now. Though we’ll have to see. I should check the Goodreads page again and see if there are reviews that talk about what got cut. My time is limited, after all, on the one hand, but on the other hand, if it cuts the really interesting bits, then what’s the point?
- Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up by Mary Beard. Part of a recent Amazon order that weirdly arrived on a Sunday. (The other part that arrived in that package was The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which I primarily bought for my brother, so it doesn’t count. I do plan on reading it, too, though, as it looks pretty interesting. If occasionally creepy.) This is one of those books where I saw it in the store and said “looks good, I’ll have to get it next time I’ve got a 20% off coupon!” and then it was gone by the time I had a coupon, never to return again. (The problem with mostly reading academic non-fiction is that it’s expensive and printed in limited quantities. Makes getting your hands on older books difficult. And expensive.)
- The Death and Afterlife of Achilles by Jonathon S. Burgess. How could I resist a title like that? Technically, I could theoretically get this through the university library, but it would be much more awkward than the usual interlibrary loan. And it wasn’t too expensive used, so I was like “why not?” It hasn’t arrived yet, but it’s probably going to be high on the “to read” list. (It is, I should hasten to point out, an academic book, not a novel. Though it would also make an awesome title for a novel.)
- Whores, Harlots and Wanton Women by Petrina Brown. I saw this at the used bookstore, and almost bought it there, until I noticed it was new and therefore full price. And I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to read it $30 worth. Amazon’s page on it makes it sound like it’s about the history of lesbianism, but that didn’t seem to be the case at all. No one on Amazon’s reviewed it, and most places were selling the new, hardback copies for under $5, so that may be a danger sign…but at that price I figured it was worth the risk. Hasn’t arrived yet, though. (Amusingly, the e-mail telling me it had shipped was discarded by my spam filter, because the e-mail had the book’s title in the subject line.)
So, that’s my reading list for the summer. (Well, that and the rest of the The Amazons and The Greeks and Greek Love. And if I happen to find any new books that look so cool that I have to read them sooner rather than later…) Last summer, my accomplished reading list was pretty short: the Iliad, the Odyssey, The Fall of Troy (sadly, the 1913 translation), and every single surviving Greek tragedy that involved the Trojan War. (Counting all the ones about Orestes avenging his father and all that. Plus I also read one that I thought was going to tie in to the war a bit and actually didn’t.) Wow, that’s really short…there must have been other things I read that I just don’t remember reading. Though I was trying to focus a bit on writing. (I’m supposedly doing that this summer as well. And cleaning my house. And starting to swim laps again. And maybe tick a few games off my to-play list, or at least finish as many games as I buy so as not to make the list any longer.)
I’m glad I don’t live anywhere near a beach. My beach bag would be very heavy with these books in it!