dragojustine: (Archaeology)
I got three lovely Yuletide presents! Such are the fruits of going out on the pinch-hit list.

Seekingferret wrote me The Last Temptation of Eve, which takes that Last Temptation of Adam song and genderswitches it AND POV flips it, possibly breaking my brain in the process.

Thedevilchicken wrote me Rome fic, To Please the Gods, in which it is Saturnalia and Pullo's easy carnality is difficult to resist. And lastly there is Orders, in which sithwitch13 displays a mastery of character voices (for Pullo, Vorenus, and Antony) that makes me wild with authorial jealousy.

So my Yuletide fic this year was so niche. I am absolutely shocked that anybody other than the recipient commented on it. It could be read as historical fiction, in Athens late in the Peloponnesian war just after the overthrow of the four hundred; but the characterizations and writing style both come from Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine (the syntax so much so that it's practically pastiche).

Let me pause to pitch this book, for re-reading it was a wonder and a joy. The Last of the Wine may be difficult if you don't remember your Greek history or your Plato, but I consider this a hell of a recommendation for it; the narrative sinks us into the first-person POV of a man who speaks to us as he would another Athenian. Every page is drenched in his cultural assumptions, rich and natural, and there is none of the distance or foreignness that would be required if he tried to explain things to us. And so the book is both oblique and completely immersive; it's also sensitive, tragic, beautiful, and lyrical, a story of war and philosophy and joy. It is a coming-of-age, a boy's quest to understand the horrors he sees around him and shape the man he is becoming, a story about the pain and difficulty and importance of living well and rightly, and, above all, a story of transcendent love.


To Learn and to Teach
Last of the Wine- Phaedo and Plato
Gen, G, 1400 words

The Four Hundred are gone, and Kritias with them, and possibilities open up. )
dragojustine: (made of awesome)

Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco

 

This is something else.  Is it a murder mystery?  Historical fiction?  An apocalypse allegory?  A theology musing?  A semiotics treatise?  Damned if I know.  Maybe one day I’ll be smart enough to understand this book; in the meantime, I’m just in awe.  Eco plays with metatextuality in his, what, four different framing narratives.  William of Baskerville is an amalgam of Occam and Holmes, and works beautifully as such.  He is the mouthpiece for fascinating speculation on knowledge, what we can know, how to interpret signs, whether truth can be found.  I have no words for the awesomeness of this book. 

dragojustine: (Rome)
Battlestar Galactica, Season 3

Well, this show sure has crashed and burned, yes? It sure does suck when it becomes obvious that the writers have put a great deal LESS thought, LESS care and love and planning and analysis, into the show than the average fan. When it becomes clear that they never knew where they were going and don't much care where they've been. Hard to keep caring. Not worth it.


I have a lot of critical things to say about Rome. Don't be fooled, this kind of nit-picking comes from a place of total love. )
dragojustine: (Rome)
Rome, TV

First season, covering the Death of Julia to the Ides of March. I have my objections, of course- how could I not? This is near and dear material that has never been done EXACTLY right- but this is pretty much the best screen version (Coleen McCullough being the best text one). My objections- the bizarre casting of Caesar- it's near-Brian-Blessed level miscasting (remember I, Caesar?). Some of the female characters from the period are combined. Mostly, though, some terribly interesting characters get the shaft- Cicero, Cato, the boni in general are far more interesting than seen here. The show could drastically benefit from taking three seasons to get where it goes, reducing the time-compression.

All that said, though- how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Atia- fantastic character. The sheer level of her manipulativeness, the sheer impudence of it, the way she seems so utterly convinced of her own innocence, and, in the end- her sheer ineptitude (and she is NOT a Livia clone. She's far too idiotic for that!). She steals every scene.

The actor cast as Octavian- at 15, a better actor than many I've seen. Chillingly cold and quite believable as Octavian. Looks perfect for it too.

Brutus- a desperately complex character, wrestling with loyalty and ideology, shame and manipulation and trust and... could have been so shallow, isn't.

The treatment of religion- ever present yet unremarkable, drastically different yet never ridiculous in the slightest, deeply and genuinely felt- best treatment of pre-Christian religion on TV, you know, ever.

The sets- the feel of the city itself, the graffiti and lived-in-ness.

But let's stop beating around the bush, shall we? We all know the real point- Titus and Lucius. The central conceit of the show is the "small men" entangled in these great affairs, the period through the eyes of ordinary soldiers, yadda yadda. It could have been so bad, and instead is so good, mainly because they avoid the one central historical fiction flaw. These are not 20th century men in Roman bodies. They are Romans, through and through- in their religious beliefs, political leanings, ideas about slavery, women, government- that's what allows it to work. After that, of course, they become both massively sexy and incredibly complex, believable, sympathetic characters. I could go on at great length about the huge writing and acting successes with both of these characters.
dragojustine: (Rome)
Jews, God, and History, Max Dimont.

A classic that is now very dated- interesting more as historiography than history, but a good read nonetheless.

Five Children and It, E. Nesbitt.

This is cute. It's one of that particular era of children's novels, that both talk down to children and characterize them as odd little adults. It's also chock-full of British schoolboyisms- such a very definite flavor. Completely enjoyable, if nothing earth-shaking.

Pompeii, Robert Harris

This is fantastically fun fluff. It needs a hook to hang off- simple death and destruction wouldn't do it- and the Roman aqueducts actually make for a very good one. It still can't be a TERRIBLY good story, with that particular end looming down on it, but it sustains interest right up to the very end and the guy obviously knows his Roman-engineering-stuff... And Roman engineering hardly needs help to be very interesting and impressive.

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