A monthly round up of what I’m reading, watching etc on the first Sunday of each month.
Reluctantly, June 1 saw me reading Wind in the Willows for the June book club meeting. This was a book I enjoyed when I was knee high to a grasshopper and I loved the National Theatre stage version I saw in the late 1990s. But my tastes have changed and I just couldn’t get enthused by this book at all. Maybe it was just the passage of time, maybe it was the fact that the story was just too familiar or the fact I don’t like books featuring talking animals. Whatever the reason, I found I got to page 50 and simply had no appetite for reading any further. I was also reading Americanah by Chimimanda Adichie, an absolutely exquisite novel.
The MOOC course I started (though never finished) on Roman architecture whetted my appetite for more insights about the Empire. One of my birthday gifts was a collection of DVDs featuring Professor Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University. I’ve started on the three part series Meet the Romans with Mary Beard in which she looks at how ordinary people lived in Rome. Her presentation style is informal (not for her the serious look to camera approach beloved of academic presenters in years go by) as she cycles along the Appian Way or sweeps some of the mosaics in Osteria. It’s a style that takes a little getting used to but well worth doing so because, boy does she know her stuff and how to put it across in a way that you can understand even without the benefit of years of classical education. I wish I had her with me some years ago when we walked around the Forum in Rome, impressed by its scale but clueless as to the significance of what we were actually seeing. Prof Beard can look at an inscription on a tomb or a monument and make the people it commemorates come alive. I’m now looking forward to the next DVD which is about Pompeii.
Prof Beard has a very good blog at http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/ .Even if you are not interested in history it’s worth looking at since she talks often about reading and the study of literature.
On the iPod to accompany me in the gym or in the car is a novel by an author I’d not encountered until a few months ago and even then it was purely via audiobooks. Peter James is a British film producer and author of crime fiction including the detective Roy Grace series set in his home town of Brighton. I’ve listened to two so far, and am now part way through a third – Dead Tomorrow. I like the way he uses multiple narrative strands which run in parallel initially but converge over time. The plots also seem a cut above a lot of crime fiction because they raise some social issues – so for example, Dead Tomorrow deals with the sensitive issue of the shortage of organs through donor programs which forces some severely sick people to take drastic, and illegal action. The one thing I don’t like is the romance interest between the detective and his fiancé which always seems to feature some less than credible dialogue. Stick to the crime please Mr James!