Monday, October 18, 2010

History, Love, and Pudgy Dead Englishmen


So last year I fell in love. I know, not the kind of confession you expect from this normally quite sensible housewife. Okay, okay, it was with a book (ah, now you're thinking that's more like it), or more precisely an author.  I read an article by Dr. Thomas Sowell that made me determine to break down and read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a book that had long been on my "list" (which is endless). The author of this classic tome, Edward Gibbon became the object of my desire...okay curiosity. (Can't a girl have a little fun?) I do always seem enamored with the dead ones...Jefferson, Lewis, Gibbon.  Oh well.

 Now the size of his magnum opus is daunting at first. But charge on I did and soon became so mesmerized by the way in which he strung together words and phrases, I set out to find the unabridged version, a biography on the author and a book of his private letters (you know how I love those). Fortunately for me, though very far away, a certain professor was willing to answer my endless questions and read my incessant ramblings on the subject.

Now The Decline (let's call it that for short) was in some ways frightening, mostly when I found myself thinking..."gee, this sounds eerily familiar," a bit like yesterday's newspaper or news report. I couldn't help imagining Wolf Blitzer reporting live from down at the Forum, or Helen Thomas interviewing Diocletian  (she was only a young Forum correspondent then). It seemed some days that only the backdrop would change. It was also sometimes funny as it was when Gibbon describes the physical attributes of Zenobia and reminds us "...in speaking of a lady these trifles become important"  (my, how little some things change with time). However toward the end it left me depressed... as he recounts the final days.  But it was in the books ABOUT the man who would devote a large part of his life to such a work that I found the most entertainment. More about that in a later post.

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