Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Review: A Burnable Book

Review of Bruce Holsinger's novel "A Burnable Book" by Washington Post fiction editor Ron Charles:
Forget Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa tower; the hot new super-agent is 14th-century writer Geoffrey Chaucer. Thrill to his daring Middle English rimes! Gasp at his mighty scansion! Here in the pages of Bruce Holsinger’s medieval adventure, that randy old poet finally gets the “Mission Impossible” cameo he deserves.
The Burnable Book” takes place in 1385, when the walled city of London is still finding its footing after the Peasants’ Revolt four years earlier. As the Hundred Years’ War drags on, young Richard II faces myriad threats inside and outside his country. Who knows when fresh blood may flow between the Earl of Oxford and the king’s uncle, John of Gaunt?
The intrigue opens during a dark night on the Moorfields. A cloaked man is beating a young woman for information. Whatever he wants to know, she won’t tell him. She screams out two lines of an allegorical poem just before he finishes her off with a hammer. This doesn’t say much for the efficacy of poetry as a defense against blunt-force trauma, but it gets the novel off to a rousing start.

I had this one on my TBR list - and after reading this review, the book has moved ever closer to the top.  I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy and settling in for a jounrey into " the grimy underbelly of London".


Sunday, February 2, 2014

New Poems by Sappho

From the Guardian:
Sappho is one of the most elusive and mysterious – as well as best-loved – of ancient Greek poets. Only one of her poems, out of a reputed total of nine volumes' worth, survives absolutely intact. Otherwise, she is known by fragments and shards of lines – and still adored for her delicate outpourings of love, longing and desire.
But now, two hitherto unknown works by the seventh-century lyricist of Lesbos have been discovered. One is a substantially complete work about her brothers; another, an extremely fragmentary piece apparently about unrequited love.

The poems came to light when an anonymous private collector in London showed a piece of papyrus fragment to Dr Dirk Obbink, a papyrologist at Oxford University.

Read Poem Here => http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/30/read-sappho-new-unknown-poem-papyrus-classical
Sappho's poems, which were lost from the manuscript tradition and were not collated and copied by medieval monks as were so many surviving ancient texts, have been preserved by two main means: either through quotation by other authors (often as examples of particular syntactical points by ancient grammarians) or through the discovery of fragments written on ancient papyrus. There is hope yet for more poems to come to light, preserved in the Egyptian sands.

Obit: Thomas F Mayer



Thomas F. Mayer, 62, died Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House in Bettendorf, after a year-and-a half-long struggle with cancer. He was born Sept. 10, 1951, in McLeansboro, Ill.
Tom was professor emeritus of history and an internationally known scholar who taught for most of his life at Augustana College in Rock Island. He received his master's degree in medieval history at Michigan State University and his Ph.D. in Tudor/Stuart history at the University of Minnesota.
As the author of 15 books, he wrote a study of the early 16th century political thinker, Thomas Starkey; a biography of Starkey's patron, Reginald Pole, who missed becoming pope by one vote; and a trilogy on Galileo's trial and the Roman Inquisition. His second volume on the Inquisition was published just before his death, and another book on Galileo's trial will be published posthumously. He also edited five volumes of Pole's correspondence.