Sundry Thoughts

I have read things and written stuff:
Blog, Journals, Fiction…

First mills blog post written, sent to editor and now posted – I mainly talk about why library classification is necessary and what cataloguing entails (Read it here if you are interested)

First 3 articles selected (and started) for note-taking are:
1: R. Batty (2000) “Mela’s Phoenician Geography” JRS 90 pp.70-94
[Mela deliberately not Strabo or in Greek tradition, nor does he centre Rome but identifies Phoenician Spain as important… tbc]

2: B. Cunliffe (2007) “Continent cut off by fog: just how insular is Britain?” Scottish Archaeological Journal 29.2 pp.99-112

3: C. Brisby (2009) “Druids at Drayton: Dipping into Antiquarianism before the Society of Antiquaries (1717)” British Art Journal 10.2 pp.2-8
[Paintings influenced by Sammes (who was influenced by Bochart) and this shows spread of antiquarian intrest that culminates in Stukeley’s Druids]

I have also updated my BMCR subscription and made myself commit to reading more of the reviews…

And finally, I went on holiday – so that means Fiction reading – and here are quick reviews of some I have read this year (spot the themes):

Laure Eve: – Fearsome Dreamer & Illusionists
Author summary here. [Full Disclosure:- I kind of know the author]

Pair of Young Adult (pitched slightly younger than I normally read I think) books set in an alternative (mildly dystopian) future with England as a rural backwater with magic separated from a technological world empire where most people interact in an augmented reality. At its heart this is a coming-of-age tale for a young girl realising her potential set against something a little bit like a love story. Its main characters are deliberately conflicted and complex and we are only gradually led into understanding the range of emotions and motivations beyond those of the protagonist. I was impressed that although I often thought I knew what was going to happen the overall narrative kept getting more complex and there was no overall redemption.
I will admit I found the 1st a little unsatisfying in that it didn’t feel  so much like a complete story that lead onto the next but rather part of the whole stopped at a dramatic junction, by contrast the 2nd ended with enough resolution to be satisfying but enough space to keep your brain whirring. In the end I never did decide whether it was profoundly depressing or remarkably cheery and the world-building felt stronger than the characterisation (some deft geographical and technological touches brighten the somewhat spartan prose-style) but nevertheless a strikingly interesting read with lots of room for interpretation.

Suzanne Collins:- Hunger Games trilogy
[Assuming most people have read at least a synopsis/seen the films/can find info on Google easily enough – side note I’ve not seen the films yet…]

I was late to read this quite simply because I expected to be disappointed and irritated. Shame on me. I actually rated this YA dystopian fight-to-the-death and reform-the-Empire series surprisingly highly. Sure Collins cops out at the end by having Katniss not really make a choice about her relationships or family and everything being if not ‘happily ever after’ at least comfortably safe, but I liked the way Katniss is uncertain about her own motivations and willing to embrace more than one type of Love as well as admitting her own sense of violence – this spoke to me of my own sense of teenage self without me wanting to punch her more than half the time (a rare feat). I liked the diversity of the death-scenes especially the interplay between the casual and personal-emotional losses both immediately and longer-term. Collins is also a beautifully sensual writer lingering on visual and tactile descriptions in a pleasing way. Nonetheless, although the trilogy is a classical reception scholar’s field day in some respects I fear it will forever feel to me like a slightly less paranoid 1984 and that I will always be irked by the ending.

Sophia McDougall:- Romanitas trilogy
[Wiki for book 1 here – everything else follows inevitably on in a world war and slave revolt kinda way]

I resolved to read these after meeting Sophia at the SFF conference and listening to her speak despite never really having delved into alt. history before.
The books, set in a technologically advanced Roman Empire, revolve primarily around a brother and sister whose fortunes fluctuate from slavery to freedom (via various weird interim situations) and through greater and lesser amounts of agency and influence. The real moral focus of the books is the position of slaves and the fundamental problems of inequality but it is worth noting that although it is alluded to they do not really attempt to tackle gender issues or alternative sexualities and these are left as expected features of the Roman Empire premise. Like the Hunger Games these books have a lot to say about personal versus collective responsibility but overall they feel much more like a traditional questing fantasy style. Nonetheless the breadth and depth of the world-building must be commended (even if as a classicist I would choose to quibble artistically over details).
I have to say I found the first book really hard to get into (not sure how much that was the writing style and how much my head space) and left it a while before getting and reading the following two and yet I devoured them much more comfortably. I can also firmly say that I felt little sympathy or empathy for any of the characters and struggled to find useful analogies which was a slight disappointment. However, more importantly I believe I will use these books as a way of re-approaching certain issues as a scholar and frankly that is a strong recommendation for reading them!

Brain starting to engage?

2 thoughts on “Sundry Thoughts

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