Friday, February 23, 2007

A little light reading

A couple of days ago, I ran across somebody's remarks (and -- forgive me -- I know not where) about light reading, in which the text in question was from the classical Greek period, and I found myself in sympathy.

I like reading the so-called serious stuff for fun. In fact, that was part of why I never finished college and earned my degree. I wasn't simply lazy (although being in a deep depression for sixteen months didn't help). When I was functioning, I was reading voraciously, and chewed through Thucydides, Aristophanes, Catullus, Machiavelli, and countless compilations of historic letters and documents. I can still even remember a bit of it, nearly three decades after.

Two weeks ago at auction, I found a text from the 1850s, a biography (with notes and commentary) of John Calvin. I'm nearly finished with it, and will be giving it to the library of my alma mater (a Scottish Presbyterian college). When I'm done, I'll be looking for some more light reading.

I'm seriously considering asking to borrow a copy of this new book: Medieval Mercenaries: The Business of War, by William Urban. I know Mom ordered a copy of it from the History Book Club. I think she's going to have he author autograph it, then it will be a gift to Dad on his birthday next month.

Some of the people who know me will assume that the reason I'm interested in a copy of this book is that I'm sucking up to my old history prof from college. I fear it's too late for that. He knows I'm never going to go back to pick up that degree, and, even if I were to try it, I'd not be one of his advisees any more. Dr. Urban is a friend of our family. But he is also a darned good story-teller. According to the Book Club review:
Urban also analyzes the sometimes conflicting agendas of literature and pop culture in their various attempts at bringing medieval history to life. From Chaucer to Shakespeare, from Machiavelli to Mark Twain, and from Sergei Eisenstein to Mel Gibson, Urban places into context the role played by storytellers through the ages in presenting—historically accurate or not—popular accounts of medieval history.
The review concluded:
With an introduction by renowned medieval historian Terry Jones, also of “Monty Python” fame, Medieval Mercenaries will enlighten, delight, and fascinate anyone interested in reading how nations thrive in a wartime economy and profit from perpetual conflict.
How could we resist?

Actually, I've already read one chapter, in its earliest stages. I think the sales pitch covers it fairly well. I was hoping I could be given the opportunity to edit the rest of it, but time was not on my side, then. And, now that I have some time, I have none of the pages at hand. But my birthday is coming up in a little over a month, hint hint hint (I'm an Aries, for those who keep track of that sort of thing).

Meanwhile, maybe I'll read Ellet's Brigade, by Chester G. Hearn. It seems to be calling out my name from the folks' library.

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