Sunday, June 07, 2009

NOW READING: American Diplomacy, 1900-1950 by George F. Kennan
NOW FINISHED: Julian by Gore Vidal

is stunning and awesome. Perhaps I am just being a snob when I am sometimes surprised that I have never even heard of a book and then it turns out to be amazing and I want everyone to read it. I shouldn't be, though, since often when the masses like something it is less than spectacular. (I won't name any hideous, incredibly obvious examples that are popular at the moment, although I do think it would be funny if people searching for her or her trashtracular crap series were to come across my blog instead. Ha!)

Not usually a fan of historical fiction, I was drawn to Julian because I had decided to finally read Gore Vidal and I liked the idea of the plot: a Roman emperor attempting to squelch the wacky upstart religion of Christianity before it thoroughly took hold. I now plan to read more Gore. He plunges you into this old world much like Umberto Eco does in The Name of the Rose, perhaps even better. Despite the fact that I and many others born in the 20th century are unfamiliar with much of Greek and Roman history, the book is not at all off-putting, and you learn all about the gods and religions, the geography, and the goings on in the politics of the empire without ever being confused or feeling like you are having to learn history in order to read your book. You also learn who's the crazy cult magician, who means well, and who is just the empire drunk. It's good stuff.

Stirring, funny, philosophical, and a compelling drama as well, this novel is not to be missed.

Soon we will be moving on to 'W' -- another political novel! But my brief detour into the non-fiction and non-blog-project American Diplomacy is because I am taking the Foreign Service exam in a few days (I know, yay!) and I was reading a study guide of practice questions that asked about George Kennan's such-and-such political theory and I was like, "Who?" and then later that day while packing up our apartment I discovered that his book was among the paperbacks in the inherited pile I got from Grandma's house after she died at the end of my first year of law school, which pile has been waiting patiently on my bottom shelf, hidden and overshadowed (literally) by law school books for two years. So clearly that was a cosmic sign that I should read that really quick before moving on to All The King's Men!


Paul said...

I really liked Gore Vidal's "Burr"-- he's a terrific writer, as he would have to be to sell me on a historical novel about Aaron Burr!

I'll have to add "Julian" to my long and growing to-read list. I have been on a Roman history kick lately, having discovered the very readable historian Adrian Goldsworthy. Fascinating times, a fascinating culture... and one becoming sadly neglected of late.

linda said...

Definitely add Julian to your list. It made me want to read more about that neglected and totally awesome culture, too. And I was thinking of reading Burr for my next Gore.