Category Archives: Chapters

Translations: Some books always have a market for more

Not too long ago, I picked up a £1 copy of Ronald Knox’s 1950s translation of the New Testament at a charity shop. On a whim. I must admit that I’ve not looked at it yet, but word on the street (or Amazon, really) is that it is elegant and modern at the same time.

The Bible as a whole, and the New Testament in particular, is a text for which there will always be a market for new translations and paraphrases. One can purchase the Orthodox Study Bible (which includes its own translation of the Septuagint), the New King James Version, the King James Version, the New International Version, the updated New International Version, Today’s New International Version, The Living Bible, the New Living Translation, the Contemporary English Version, Today’s English Version, JB Phillips’ translation, the Jerusalem Bible, the New Jerusalem Bible, Richmond Lattimore’s New Testament, the Revised Standard Version, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard Version, the New American Bible, the English Standard Version, the New English Bible, and so forth, or self-aware paraphrases such as The Message or Word on the Street.

Similarly, there seems to be no end to translations of St. Augustine’s Confessions. I was once in the Indigo on Bay Street in Toronto and found seven different translations available in the religion section!

If religion isn’t your thing, you could make a small library of translations of Homer instead. Just last year, Stephen Mitchell released his translation of the Iliad, making the editorial choice of leaving out everything that ML West obelised — including the entirety of Book 10 (here’s Butler’s translation if Mitchell’s all you’ve got). Mitchell’s translation is added to Robert Fagles‘ of both Iliad and Odyseey, Richmond Lattimore’s (also of both), Robert Fitzgerald’s (also of both), Anthony Verity’s, EV Rieu’s (also of both; also out in updated translations), and the old, classic translations by Alexander Pope, Samuel Butler, George Chapman, and John Dryden.

Gilgamesh seems also to be doing fairly well, with at least two translations in Penguin Classics (Andrew George and N. Sandars), Stephen Mitchell again, and is included in the Oxford World’s Classics book  Myths of Mesopotamia. Not as abundant as the above, but give Gilgamesh time. Not as many people know Akkadian and other Babylonian languages as Greek.

Perhaps, although not into religion per se, you aren’t so much into the epic poetry, either. Then I recommend you turn to Plato’s Republic. There are at least ten translations easily available to you.

All of these books are books I would recommend — the Bible, the Confessions, Homer, Gilgamesh, the Republic. Other books I would recommend are not served so well in English translation, however; outside of the forthcoming (but not sure what year) Landmark edition, I know of but two translations of Ammianus Marcellinus, the late-antique historian. For The Hymns of Zoroaster, I know only of M L West’s translation, which exists precisely because what little West could find was not up to his standards, so he taught himself Avestan and did his own translation. And while people are translating and re-translating St. Augustine, the entirety of Pope Leo I’s epistolary corpus has never made it into English, living in two partial translations. Apuleius’ hilarious Latin novel The Golden Ass lurks about in a mere two translations, one for Oxford and one for Penguin.

So long as these less-well-served works stay in few translations, some of them sawdusty, others inaccessible due to rarity or price, still others quite rubbishy at times, they will not reach the English-reading public, which is certainly larger than those who read Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Akkadian, or Avestan.

Work (mine)

I have a job.  I am a caregiver for a one-year-old boy, Tues-Fri while his parents are at work.  We play with toys (balls, cars, a boat, toy pianos (2), toy phones (3), blocks, hockey sticks, a xylophone thing, puzzles), listen to music (Raffi, Fred Penner, The Barenaked Ladies, CBC Classical, and his fave, the CD from Rainbow Songs), go to Rainbow Songs on Tues (baby music), sometimes go to the kindergymn on Wed (babies and toddlers, balls of various sizes, foam gymnastics equipment, slides, rocking horse, teeter-totters, hockey equipment, mats, cars for riding in), sometimes do things with the moms of the neighbourhood, go for walks (sometimes with him in backpack, sometimes in stroller).  I feed him lunch and a recently illimitable number of snacks.  He naps twice daily.

He likes bananas, tiny Chinese oranges, Cheerios, crackers, “The Grand Old Duke of York”, the kitties, his family — especially his dad.

While he naps, I read (I read a giant PhD dissertation earlier this year), surf the web, blog, drink tea, pray, tidy up.

One relative has reminded me not to stop looking for work that is more in line with my interests.  As someone who hopes to one day be a father, what interests would those be?  Career interests?  As a future classical/theological scholar, I see no jobs in Toronto in line with my career interests for which I am eligible.  This work is certainly more in line with my long-term life interests than working in a book store or a desk job with government or being a knight at Medieval Times.

No doubt it is the fact that this is not a characteristically male profession, that of nanny (or “manny”, male nanny, if you will).

I see no real reason why the number of men involved in childcare and elementary-school teaching be so small.  This is, first of all, actual work.  I mean, sure, right now my little charge is asleep, and I’m blogging.  But once he’s awake, I must keep him entertained, amused, fed, out of trouble, out of danger, clean (including the diaper).  I, who am neither his favourite nor second favourite (nay, not even third or fourth, really), must spend time with him and help make sure that he is healthy, happy, and growing up as he should.  This takes work.  Taking care of a willful one-year-old who sees no reason that the poopy diaper need come off or who wishes to hit things other than the xylophone with the mallet is work.

Second, this is meaningful work.  We should honour those who look after our children.  Honour housewives and house-husbands.  Honour nannies and babysitters and daycare workers and elementary-school teachers everywhere.  To help a little person grow into the big person whom he will someday be is a tremendous privilege and of greater meaning and truer value than helping someone in Chapters get the latest book by Donald Trump or Dan Brown.  To encourage a little guy to try new things, to help him improve coordination, to watch these things unfold before your eyes is truly meaningful and life-affirming.  To produce smiles and laughter in a world of sorrow and pain is always to be encouraged — and one-year-olds have the winningest smiles of all.  To hold a child in your arms as the child falls asleep — priceless.

Children are not merely the future — although they are, and should be nurtured into their almost infinite potential — they are the present.  They are real people here and now who need love and compassion, who need mercy and honour, who need the strength of community to flourish.  The Psalms say that many children are like a quiver full of arrows.  They are the treasure store of a family, the most precious possessions in a household.

Not only is this meaningful work, but it is work to which a man brings different things from a woman.  I am glad that many women choose to be nannies and daycare workers and schoolteachers.  This is good.  So should men.  Every human being is different, and this includes children.  There are children whom a man, because of the combination of genetics and culture, will be more suited to care for than a woman (inevitably, this goes vice versa).  Men and women are different, so we bring different skills and outlooks to the task of child-rearing.  For too long men have inhabited a childless world, a world where the daily grind is meaningful for no reason other than it being work.  Women have entered the factories, the small businesses, the kitchens, the towers of business, the ivory tower, the halls of government.  Good.  Now let us see the men — the right men — enter the elementary schools, the daycares, the Sunday Schools, the nannying jobs.

Finally, a man with a nurturing heart, a man who knows what it takes to be a man, a man who likes children, a man with imagination, a man with a strong work ethic, a man with strong protective instincts — these men should be in the lives of the sons of our society.  In a society where divorce, death, deadbeats, and other factors leave many boys fatherless, these boys need strong male influences to help them see what a man should be.  In a society where men abuse their wives and children, where men work excessively long hours, where men are couch potatoes, boys need strong male influences to help them see what a man should be.*

*They also need female influences.  And girls need both male and female influences.  It is my understanding that a healthy dose of both genders helps us grow up to be healthier psychologically.

Books and Whence They Come

I was thinking about books the other day because we had just come back from a trip to visit Jenn’s Grandpa McClung. Almost every trip we make, we end up with more books. This was once more the case. And I thought, “Where do books come from as they make their way into our apartment?”  (All books below are linked to LibraryThing if linked anywhere.)

Well, there are those that are simply given to us by generous people, this weekend, Grandpa’s wife gave me Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James, Die Heilige Schrift by God (trans. Martin Luther), and Biblia Sacra Latina also by God (trans. Jerome et al). In these terms, I believe that the Nimigans are the most abundant book bestowers. If you go to my Library Thing catalogue and check out the tag “From Nimigans,” you’ll find 33 titles; there is at least one more title, but I haven’t got around to adding it to the catalogue yet. The vast majority of these are Latin or Greek books, Caesar, Lucian, Terence, Virgil, with a sizable New Testament dictionary and accompanying grammar, Edith Hamilton’s The Echo of Greece, and Documents of the Christian Church by Bettenson in the mix.

Or there are those times when a kind person buys you a book in a bookshoppe. This past weekend it was Black Angels of Athos by M. Choukas. It’s about Greek monks on Mount Athos, the hub of Greek monasticism and spirituality. This is relatively rare, but I know I’ve managed to score some books via my father this way — although the last time I wanted to, I felt guilty, so he bought the book for himself (he was interested in it as well), but I got first reading.

The only other way I can think of that involves not buying the book oneself is a right and proper present. For example, at my birthday, I got the Everyman book Anglo-Saxon Poetry, Titus Groan by Mervin Peake, and A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin. And also a fun oddity, The Western Book of the Dead a little booklet put out by IVP in the 70’s.

These days, books also wend their way via the Internet. This is not strictly true, mind you. They come from warehouses and booksellers, but the purchasing occurs online. Most recently, I found a book at Chapters.ca (of all places) that was $36 elsewhere but only $7 at Chapters. I immediately snatched up this pricing oddity until the drunk man at the head office who inputs the books into the computers found out. It was The Conferences of John Cassian, the translation with commentary and notes by Boniface Ramsey. It is an 886-page hardcover. (They haven’t figured it out yet, so if you’re interested in early monasticism/Christian spirituality and its roots, snatch them up!!)

And, of course, the traditional book store. I, myself, prefer to frequent used bookshoppes. Most recently, I grabbed Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey and How to Recognize Gothic Art.

The only problem with having so many books coming in is that we were at capacity a year ago. We need to ship some out, so we’re going through and eliminating ones we’ll never read again and reading some we figure will only be read just the once.

Four Dictionaries

Every book has a story. This is true, even of economics text books. Some books have more exciting stories than others. For example, despite the quality of its contents, my copy of CS Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism has not really had any adventures yet, unless it had some on the way to the book store. Others, such as my coverless copy of She, by H. Rider Haggard, that my Uncle Bob gave to me, have doubtless had many adventures, although I do not know them.

And although each of our 22 dictionaries has a story, from my granddad’s spineless dictionary to Jennifer’s Pocket Oxford Latin Dictionary, allow me to tell you the stories of my favourite four, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, A Latin Dictionary by Lewis & Short (henceforth Lewis & Short), and A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell & Scott (henceforth LSJ).

As many of you know, I am a big fan of talking and spelling Canadian. I esteem the time-honoured tradition, not only of -our but also, I have realised, other aspects of Canadian spelling and speaking, like drinking pop, not soda, for example. I have practised the practice of Canadian spelling and speaking all my life, and I remember my judgement failing only once, on account of the NIV translation of the Bible being American and dropping an E, creating judgment.

As a result of my Canadianness in orthography and locution, I was quite pleased that Oxford decided to publish a Canadian dictionary, one with all the proper spellings as well as words such as Persian (Cdn (NW Ont.) an oblong doughnut covered with pink or white icing). I have for many years desired a large dictionary with definitions, pronunciations, and basic etymology (part of me wants the 20-volume OED, but I hope the spiritual discipline of simplicity will save me from it if I ever have enough money). So, with both converging in one place, I knew what dictionary I wanted. The only problem with large dictionaries is their price. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary costs $59.95 new; thus, when I worked at Chapters, I would still have to pay $41.97–a bit pricey.

Then, one day, my dreams were realised. There it sat, amidst other dictionaries that were of little or no interest to me, marked with a flashy, happy 30% off sticker. As an employee, I would get an additional 10% on top of that, thus rendering the dictionary $35.97. Jennifer and I were engaged at this point, and we felt that a good quality dictionary was a lifetime investment and worth $35.97. So I decided to buy one.

And then, shock of shocks, the 30% off stickers were gone! It wasn’t on sale after all! Disheartened, I kept a glimmer of hope that one day it would be on sale again. Nevertheless, hope is never entirely gone for a Hoskin. One day while gazing longingly at the dictionaries, I saw that my gem was once again marked with a glistening orange 30% off sticker. I was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, so I took it over to a computer, and went to see what the system had to say about this state of affairs. The computer did not list it at 30% off. I mentioned this to a co-worker, and she informed me that a number of titles that were on sale in her section had not made their way into the computer system but were, nevertheless, on sale. This was undoubtedly the case with the dictionary I craved.

So I bought it. I stood in line, happily holding the blue, shrink-wrapped book with its red maple leaf in the bottom right-hand corner. I handed it to the cashier. She noticed that it hadn’t come up as on-sale in the computer, a problem that had been occurring of late. So the GM of the store was called over, and he typed in a special code so the book would be 30% off. And then my employee discount was applied. My employee discount that was supposed to get me an additional 10% off the price of the dictionary. But something went wrong. The cashier asked for $25-something. I asked if that was right. She said that the computer had given me the full 30% on top of the initial 30% off. I paid, feeling somewhat guilty, as Jennifer found me in line. And then I was sent on my way with a dictionary for 60% off.

That was a good purchase, and completely unintentionally.

When I started working at Chapters, I was working in the Teen, Humour, Games, Sports, Transportation, Computers, Reference, Business section. One of the few items that interested me in this section was in “Other Reference”, a tome entitled Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. I would lovingly arrange copies of it on the shelves and admire the Mediaevalesque unicorn on the cover. We had the seventeenth edition, revised by John Ayto. One of the alluring features of this dictionary was the Foreword by Terry Pratchett, a fantasy novelist whose Discworld novels are three riots and seven-eights (thus, almost four riots, and not merely “a riot”).

But, alas, this dictionary was $69.95, well beyond my price range. And as long as I worked at Chapters, it never went on sale.

And what, you ask, is so exciting about this dictionary besides a Foreword by Terry Pratchett that I could have read while no one was looking? Allow me to give you a sample of its glory:

Cry.

Cries of animals. A special word is used for the cry, call or sound of many animals, and it would be wrong or even ludicrous to use these words indiscriminately. Thus, a dog does not ‘buzz’ and a bee does not ‘bark’. The following are appropriate words for each:

Apes gibber
Asses bray
Bears growl
Bees hum
Beetles drone
Bitterns boom
Blackbirds and thrushes whistle
. . . [right down to]
Wolves howl

What is not more exciting than a creature such as this for a verbivore, for an aspiring philologist (lover of words, not a studier of love)? It even, under cross, has a page devoted to types of crosses! Under Famous Last Words, the entry is similar to that of animal cries, and gives almost five and a half pages of examples of famous last words, such as William Wordsworth: “God bless you! Is that you, Dora?”

Nevertheless, such was the price of this book that never could I justify purchasing it.

And then one day, fortune’s tide changed.

In Ottawa, there is a small chain of bookstores called Benjamin Books. They have a location on Osgoode St. full of used books as well as text books that various U of O profs order there rather than at the university bookstore. They also have at least two other locations in malls. The locations in malls have publisher’s clearing house and university press titles for up to 90% off list price. I frequently frequented Benjamin Books in my time in Ottawa.

One day, whilst randomly browsing the store in the Rideau Centre (from which I have quite affordably acquired such treasures as Constantine and the Conversion of Europe, Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf, The Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, and The Barbarian Conversion amongst others), I came upon none other than Brewer’s for $20-some dollars! Quickly I snatched it from the table, gloating to myself about my great luck, cunning, and good Scots eye for a deal. I have treasured it ever since.

The third dictionary is Lewis & Short. This is the sort of dictionary that, unlike Brewer’s, a philologist does not so much want as need, although want it I did. There is only one Latin-English dictionary superior to it, and that is the Oxford Latin Dictionary (OLD)–reputed to be the best bilingual dictionary on the market. But the OLD is so large it basically requires a shelf unto itself, due to both its height and massive weight. Were I to have one, I do not know where I would put it. Nevertheless, I was getting the feeling that my Chambers-Murray would no longer cut it, and that it would soon be incumbent upon me, as an MA student in Classics, to acquire either the OLD or Lewis & Short.

My investigations into dictionaries this fall told me that Lewis & Short would cost over $250 at full price, the OLD over $450. Of course, one looks around for these things, and I was resolved that, at some point after the wedding (when life had settled a bit and I had my OSAP), I would go out and buy one of these two as well as the LSJ (the Greek one).

Such was not to be the case, for at our present-opening party, Jennifer and I were delighted and pleased to open up a gift from a couple of former professors at U of O and find Lewis & Short in its blue cover with gold writing on the spine waiting for us to crack it open. It has been a valuable resource, for if it lacks anything, I have yet to find it lacking. Each page is three columns of Latin words, giving their English definitions and various places where they occur in Latin literature. It is very thorough and very welcome as I translate Vergil, Cicero, Seneca, and Livy, defining Latin from

A, a, indecl. n. (sometimes joined with littera), the first letter of the Latin alphabet, corresponding to the a, α of the other Indo-European languages: A primum est: hinc incipiam, et quae nomina ab hoc sunt, Lucil. ap. Terent. Scaur. p. 2255 . . .

to

zythum, i, n., = ζῦθος, a kind of malt-liquor among the Egyptians, Plin. 22, 25, 82, 164; Col. 10, 116; Dig. 33, 6, 9 praef.

It also has a comprehensive list of abbreviations, thankfully.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the LSJ. As noted above, I knew I would probably end up acquiring the LSJ at some point this year. It was all a question of when. Well, this term, I have been finding my Intermediate Greek Lexicon inadequate for much of the poetry we are translating. Most people learn the Attic dialect of fourth-century Athens when they learn Greek, the language of Plato and the tragedians. My old lexicon is geared mainly toward such people. But in Greek Poetry class, we have been translating mostly archaic and Hellenistic poets, along with 50 lines of The Odyssey per meeting (for which I have A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect). Frequently I have been unable to find words in the smaller lexicon.

Shortly into the term, we were informed by our Greek prof that there is absolutely no excuse for not finding a word, because if it’s not in your dictionary, it’s in LSJ, and we should all have LSJ anyway. Well, we’re mostly paupers, so that’s not exactly the most realistic possibility, since the U of T bookstore sells the LSJ for around $250. I tried using the version on the Perseus Project, but since it’s only searchable, not browsable, you need to know at least part of the root word to find a definition, you can’t just scan the pages where you think the root ought to be found until you find it. As well, the Perseus server can be painfully slower, sometimes doesn’t load properly, and is often down for hours or days at a time. Needless to say, I was finding this option painful.

I mentioned my woes to Jennifer, and she said I should go buy one, then. I pointed out the price issue, and she said that I should search online. So I searched online. I searched amazon, abe, and chapters. And the cheapest I found, rather than $250, was $112, from alibris, being sold through chapters. So I bought it. And then came the waiting game.

Every day I would check the porch at the front of our building for a dictionary-sized box (this thing is too massive to fit in the mailbox). And for weeks, it did not come. Then on January 30, Jennifer and I went out to the Keg (courtesy of a gift card we got as a wedding present). On the way home, I said to her, “So, did you check the mail today?”

“I didn’t check the mailbox,” she said (slyly).

So we got home, and I checked the mail, noticing a distinct lack of Greek lexica on the front porch, although SIM did send me a letter acknowledging the fact that they received our donation for my aunt and uncle in Angola. Then we went around back and down into our cozy, little basement apartment. And as I entered, I saw on my desk, peaking out from behind Sven who guards the way, a very classy-looking, ginormous tome with a black dust-jacket and white lettering, the Oxford crest emblazoned on the front and, there, at the top:

H. G. Liddell and R. Scott
Greek-English
Lexicon
With a Revised Supplement

Jennifer told me that when she got home earlier that day, she opened the door, and whump! it fell on the ground. Immediately she thought, “Oh no, I killed it!” Then she hefted the weighty package and brought it in, knowing full well what would be within.

Now I am the proud possessor of the LSJ. This is the most comprehensive Greek-English lexicon in existence. It has xlv pages of prelminaries, then 2042 pages of the dictionary proper. At the end is the 1996 supplement with xxxi pages of preliminaries and 320 pages of dictionary entries. An entry at random:

λᾰγῷς, α, ον, contr. for λαγώϊος, of the hare, κρέα Ar. Ach. 1110; τρίχες Plu. 2.138f; Ï„á½° λ. (sc. κρέα) hare’s flesh, Hp.Vict.2.46: and generally, dainties, delicacies, ζῆν ἐν πᾶσι λαγῴοις Ar.V.709, cf. Ach. 1006, Pax 1196, Telecl.32, Pl.Com.174.10, etc.

Truth be told, this is not the most exciting entry in the dictionary, but the more exciting ones are way too long, and every time I went for a random one, I got something like this. Now then, you may be wondering what all the abbreviations and extra Greek words mean. These are examples of the word in use in Greek literature, to help give its nuance. If one wished to look up these references, all he’d have to do is flip to the beginning of the dictionary to section V on page xliii, “General List of Abbreviations.” So, Ar. = Aristophanes, the Athenian comic playwright. Ach. is one of his works, so we have to consult section I, “Authors and Works” on page xvi, and find Aristophanes. Here we’ll find a list of the abbreviations of his works. Thus, Ach. = Acharnenses. 1110 is the line number. And so forth throughout. Eventually, one gets used to the author’s names, and can sometimes guess which work is cited.

Now, these abbreviations for Greek authors and their works are very important, because they set the standard for scholarship. If someone in an article or in a scholarly edition quotes a Greek work, these abbreviations will be used. All the scholar need do is grab the LSJ and look it up.

Finally, this dictionary is great because it has so many words. Anything I’ll ever want is in here. And often, the text I’m using is quoted in the entry. All the ways of using the words are used, so I’ll never lack for assistance in preparing for class.

So these are my four favourite dictionaries and how I got them and why they are cool. Every book you own has a story — where it came from, who owned it before you, how you got it, what you’ve done with it, what you use it for, when you read it, where you read it, when you plan to read it. And every book you own, especially when coupled with its story, says something about you, about what you enjoy, about how you spend your time, about what you value. 22 dictionaries say something about Jennifer and I, and these four say some things in particular about me.

If you have read this far, well done. I have two more notes regarding dictionaries, though. First, we have twenty-three, not twenty-two, as previously stated. Jennifer realised that I hadn’t counted the Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Second, before too long, we shall have only 20. We have a surfeit of dictionaries; in the name of simplicity, we shall eliminate the Collins Latin minidictionary, and the Pocket Oxford Latin & Greek dictionaries.

books (variously)

First: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was satisfying. It was enjoyable. I liked it. I do not deny that the Harry Potter books are good. Better than Lemony Snicket, in fact. Better than a lot of kids books and with very wide appeal. Still, I don’t fully see how the craze occurred.

Anyway, today I just finished The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander, the third book of the Chronicles Prydain. One last shot at Harry before continuing: Many say, and I agree, that the last 200 pages of Deathly Hallows are so good you want to read them all in one go. Deathly Hallows is 606 pages long. The Castle of Llyr 206 pages long, and the whole thing has about the same effect — in other words, J. K. Rowling wasted 400 pages (not really, but it’s a fun thing to say).

In the Prydain books, there are enchanted objects. One could possibly say “magical”, but having read Harry Potter and other fantasy books, I’m not sure that’s really the word I want. The objects of Prydain are different. Well, not all of them. The Black Cauldron, the Cochren (sp?), is the sort of thing one bends to one’s will, like so many magical objects. A lot of magical objects are manipulated to the user’s will, that all a person needs to do is learn the trick, or the right ephrase, or whatever, and the object will oblige. In Prydain, such is not necessarily the case. Often, the “trick” has more to do with one’s inner quality or virtue than it does shaping the object to the will of the user. Rather than forcing the world around us into our mould, we must learn to adapt ourselves to the world around us, to discover the virtues necessary to survive.

I am also a firm believer in redemption. I know that Rowling wasn’t writing “that kind” of book, but I’m always bothered by the fact that Voldemort is irredeemable. I accept that Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is, because Sauron is more like the Devil than he is like Hitler or some other fallen human being who has committed horrific evils. Voldemort is a Sauron-type villain with the past of a Saruman. But even Saruman, if not redeemed in the end, I believe had his chance of redemption.

In Prydain, there is always hope of redemption. Of life over death, even for the wicked in the hope that they can change their ways. And this is as it should be, for people are people, regardless. Yes, people do wicked things. Perhaps some people are wicked. And these books do not deny evil or shiftlessness, they do not explain it away, and they do not condone it. Evil is condemned. But people — people are different. The incompetent can become heroes. The heroes can become wicked, but their heroic past is enough to accord them honour in death. The selfish can become selfless. The wicked, therefore, should be given the chance to live in the hope of their redemption.

There is more I would say, but I have a friend who’s racing me to the end of these books (I’m in the lead, by the way). Although I believe that the plot is not all there is to a good book, it is necessary. And part of the joy of reading a novel is the discovery of the story within. So I won’t go around ruining that experience for someone else.

Next, I think I’ll read either the last two books of Prydain, or else start Arthur: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

But what would Matthew’s reading list be without some sort of nonfiction entity, most likely Classical or Christian?

Well, back at Christmastide, while lurking about Chapters in Thunder Bay, I saw a book with CAESAR emblazoned across its front cover. Not only that, it had the author listed: Adrian Goldsworthy (who has an Internet Movie Database entry!). I immediately wanted it, liking both Caesar and Goldsworthy (although I’d never want the former for a friend).

I’m sure Goldsworthy has his critics. I am not Classicist enough, nor have I read enough of his work, to be one. All I know is the following: He was one of the guest lecturers at the University of Ottawa in Fall 2006. He was funny, and went with the flow when a few slides were upside down, as well as slipping in a few jokes, including cracks at the USA. His oratory style was easily followed, and his presentation about the Roman army on the frontiers was fairly balanced — Dr. Goldsworthy is a military historian.

He also has great ideas about Classics as a field. He thinks we need to present a more balanced view of the field, to not get caught up in useless controversies that only scholars care about (at least, he seemed to be saying this), and really get into the period and how it was and present what we know. According to Goldsworthy, archaeologists ought to communicate with historians who ought to communicate with linguists who ought to communicate with the people who study the literature. Social historians should consult with military historians who should consult with political historians. The Classical world was one whole thing. We should make use of the knowledge available from our colleagues in other specialities in the field.

And I agreed.

Thus, I wanted his book.

His hardcover book.

His $40 hardcover book.

His book that was still too expensive with my employee discount.

And then it came out in paperback for less than half the price.

So I bought Caesar: The Life of a Colossus.

It’s about the same length as the new Harry Potter book, only it’s a higher reading level, so it’ll take longer to finish. But I’m liking it so far — putting Caesar in his context, giving the Late Republican background, discussing what life was like for an aristocratic Roman child. I like it.

Here’s a good Cicero quote from it:

For what is the life of a man if it is not interwoven with the life of former generations by a sense of history?

Sorry this post is too long. Maybe it should have been two . . .

otherwise known as albus dumbledore

Friday was the craziest single day in the book business.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released, selling at insane rates.  WH Smiths in the UK sold 15 per second in the first day, if I remember correctly.  Chapters Rideau sold an average of 50 an hour.  50.  Each hour.  Today, we sold the last in the store, having sold around 2000 copies of this, the final book in the Saga of Harry Potter (wait, that’s the Saga of Darren Shan…), or the Chronicles of Harry Potter (nope, Chronicles of Narnia and of Prydain), or the Septilogy of Harry Potter, or the Vengeance of Voldemort: Harry Potter.  No.

The series has no name.

Nonetheless, the final book in the seven book series has been released.

So I dressed up as Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Dumbledore is my favourite character from the books.  He is the Merlin/Gandalf-esque figure in the novels whose strongest belief is in love.  He also believes in second chances and redemption, being willing to trust those whom no one else does, including werewolves and traitors.

I powdered my hair (actually, Jillian powdered it for me) and donned a resplendent wise man robe from church.  The wise men having been magi, which is the root word for magic, I felt my choice of robe was quite appropriate.  I also wore a magnificent grey beard and carried a blue wand.  Oh, and since the magus robe was open in front, I wore a blue choir robe (cassock-style) beneath.  I loved it.  Dressing up is ever so much fun!

And I made wands with kids.  Most of them didn’t care that they were made from pipe cleaners.  This is because children know the difference between fantasy and reality.  Most of the staff dressed up as well, many looking and acting their parts very well, from what I saw.

Due to the press of kids, I didn’t see much.

There was an Albus Dumbledore fan club, though.  People rather enjoyed getting their pictures taken with me, and kids would wave to me as they passed the table later in the night after having made wands with me.

And then, at 12:01, it happened.  In 25 minutes, we processed over 300 customers who had pre-ordered their books.  Boom!  Booya!

It’s hard to explain how much fun this night was.  There was a lot of energy in the air.  Pure nerd energy combined with the energy crowds get around things that are wildly popular.  I feed on nerd energy, so I was in my element.  I have very few stories because I was sitting at a table all night making wands.  But it was a good event.

Truth be told, though:

I still don’t get it.

Reasons I don’t really get the Harry Potter phenomenon:  The Chronicles of Narnia, The Chronicles of Prydain, His Dark Materials (of approximately the same vintage as Harry Potter), are all children’s fantasy and all better than Harry Potter.

Also, Roald Dahl.  Given the option, I’d reread The BFG long before rereading any of the other 6 HP books.  Or James and the Giant Peach.  Or The Vicar of Nibbleswick.  For that matter.

But I rarely understand popular phenomena (like Left Behind or The Da Vinci Code or flip flops or hip hop or that thing that crashed into the ROM).

Amo, Amas, Amat . . . and All That

The above being the title of a book by Harry Mount. I borrowed it from work (one of the privileges of being a Chapters employee), and it is due tomorrow. The subtitle: How to be a Latin Lover.

It’s a good book. It’s got some foundational, basic paradigms and grammar to help get a person jump-started in the Latin language as well as fun facts about Roman history, Roman architecture, Roman contact with Britain, and so on and so forth. It also makes a good case for the learning of Latin, something all of you should do. Now. Go and learn Latin!

Some good quotes:

Quoting William Hazlitt, The Round Table (1817), “The study of the Classics teaches us to believe that there is something really great and excellent in the world, surviving all the shocks of accident and fluctuations of opinion, and raises us above that low and servile fear which bows only to present power and upstart authority.”

“Knowing a bit of Latin is an invitation to the biggest room in the building, with a view down the corridor to all the succeeding ages. And you can get your hands on that invitation at any age. Alfred the Great, who knew how crucial it was to learn Latin to become a civilised man, took it up in his 30s.” (p. 16)

“English . . . is a bloody big jump from Latin. They are such different languages that a literal translation from one to the other sounds and looks very awkward, like putting a big foot in a small sock.” (p. 25)

“The really useful thing about Latin is not so much that it will help you understand English as that it will help you understand Latin, in which some of the most stirring prose and poetry ever was written. Know Latin, and you will know world literature from the third century BC, when writers got going in Rome, through the so-called Golden Age of Latin — Lucretius, Catullus, Sallust, Cicero and Caesar — the Augustan Age — Ovid, Horace, Virgil and Livy — down to the end of the Silver Age in 120 AD — Martial, Juvenal, Lucan, Seneca, Pliny and Tacitus.” (p. 27)

“The only reason you will know English better as a result of reading Latin is because it is so different from Latin, not because of any similarities. It is in computing the changes from one language to another that you are forced to think about the structure of each of them.” (p. 28)

“. . . it’s a good idea to try to avoid Latinate words when translating Latin. This isn’t just because Latin words don’t always translate into similar-sounding Latinate English words. It’s also that, for all the beauty of Latin, Latinate words in English are often clumsy and pompous . . .” (p. 37)

Quoting Kingsley Amis, The King’s English — A Guide to Modern usage (1997):

Berks are careless, coarse, crass, gross and of what anybody would agree is a lower social class than one’s own. They speak in a slipshod way with dropped Hs, intruded glottal stops and many mistakes in grammar. Left to them the English language would die of impurity, like late Latin.

Wankers are prissy, fussy, priggish, prim and of what they would probably misrepresent as a higher social class than one’s own. They speak in an over-precise way with much pendantic insistence on letters not generally sounded, especially Hs. Left to them the language would die of purity, like medieval Latin.

Mount continues, “You come across very few Berks in the modern Latin-reading world, and a lot of Wankers.

“Wankers have a proprietorial attachment to archaisms, mostly used by those who want to send out the strong signal — ‘I-know-this-clever-thing-and-you-don’t.’ Wankers will insist on a correct use of Latin in English when it actually ends up sounding ridiculous. For e.g.,

‘Do you think that people like me who know Latin tend to be genii who should be heard more often in auditoria?’

‘No, I think most geniuses would think you were a bit of a Wanker and would not want to bloody go near any auditoriums where there was any danger of you turning up.’

‘Not “to bloody go”. You’ve split an infinitive there. “To go near any bloody auditoria” is better.'” (40-41)

“English pedants date their dislike of a split infinitive from Latin. Since you can’t split a Latin infinitive, because it’s a single word, you shouldn’t do it in English, or so the pedants say.

“That seems bloody stupid to me — Latin and English are two different languages.

“‘To boldly go where no man has gone before’ . . . actually sounds better than ‘Boldly to go . . .’ or ‘To go boldly . . .'” (125)

It’s worth a read. Trust me.