I finished Gilbert Highet’s Poets in a Landscape. It was pretty great. I recommend it.
It’s the type of book you can read a chapter of and then put aside for weeks or months and then pick up again when you’re on the way to the can or wherever, read another chapter, and continue on this way until the book’s done. It’s a collection of biographies, so it never feels like you missed anything.
Here’s a bit about Nero’s swinging megadungeon:
“What they saw as a labyrinth of rooms within a mound of earth, with tunnels and cells buried deep in darkness and trees growing high above its topmost story, had originally been a large and sumptuous mansion on the street level, open to the air and sky all around, and that it had simply been buried by age, disaster, neglect, and oblivion. They looked at the richly decorated halls, far beneath the level of what they knew as Rome; they saw the elegant and comparatively fresh decorations, satyrs and garlands and wreathed columns, sacrificial emblems and trumpeting tritons; they decided that such fantasies were appropriate for the subterranean orgies of a bad emperor, and that, just as Tiberius had gone to the topmost summit of Capri to indulge his nameless vices, so, Nero, to hide his delights from the eye of heaven, must have buried himself in a subterranean cave, a grotto, secret but brightly lit and brightly decorated.”
Lastly, in all the books I’ve read about Rome’s history (this is three books) there’s always mention of how in the Middle Ages Rome consisted of mostly fortified noble houses from which the nobility would fight one another in the ruins. AND THAT’S IT, like one little footnote. I want to read a book all about that. Seriously. If there was an Osprey Book, Gangs of Medieval Rome, I would eat that shit up.
In other news, Pelican died. I was sad. Now I have to play a paladin. It sucks.
And, Elmore Leonard died, which also sucks. I’ve only read one book by him, though I have a few of his Westerns here on my shelf. His books are one of the half dozen or so ubiquitous ones you find in expat used book store coffee shops.
“Lonely people write letters, so that they can communicate with those whose eyes are turned elsewhere. Often such letters are merely negative, calls for sympathy, cries of despair. Often they are dreary personal reports, tedious self-analyses, lists of miniscule happenings within one tiny system.”
– From Poets In A Landscape by Gilbert Highet (the Horace chapter).