Sunday, July 26, 2015

George Carlin, Robert Harris and Dava Sobel - strange bedfellows

This book took me from 2008 to 2015 to finish. Seriously. I kept losing it, reading a bit, losing it again...I wonder whether the red and yellow helped me to lose it more effectively?
So it's a book of random 'stand up' observations. One person called him 'a foul mouthed Jerry Seinfeld'. I just found it offensive and unfunny. I don't know George's work and fully accept he may be hilarious live, but as a book, not for me. I Googled him - he was a hippy VW campervan in Cars.

WAIT he was Rufus in Bill and Ted! He was a counter culture genius!
He was a guest on Welcome Back Kotter in 1978!

Still didn't enjoy the book though. And that's from someone who has read Tim Allen, Dave Barry and Bill Cosby books which are effectively exactly the same book, possibly with less swearing.

The Roman era murder mystery space is owned by Lindsey Davis  - Google inauthor:"Lindsey Davis". In the same way Patricia Cornwall owns the steamy Southern states' forensic pathology. So I had both high expectations, but also conflicted feelings, since Mr Harris has written other books that are somewhat controversial - Enigma and Fatherland - but a quick bit of research suggests ( that if you like the historical fiction then his Cicero trilogy would be worth a look.
Pompeii is a good yarn; set in AD79 over the days of the eruption of Vesuvius. It is interesting - the engineering of the aqueducts puts a new spin on the genre and perhaps allows him to explore parts of life in Campania  that are fresh, where much of the excavated life of Herculaneum and Pompeii are so well reported as to be a bit ho hum. It's not over detailed - not so much as to put you off the story - in this he's better than Umberto Eco who forgets the story as he wombles off into exposition or philosophy. And the drama is very good. The secondary characters are a bit thin, but that means the book is a manageable length. Recommended.

I like Ms Sobel - Longitude, Galileo's Daughter, and now this. It's a little odd - a play within the book that uses real letters and quotations to imagine the way Rheticus persuades Copernicus to publish his ideas. If you like the Tudor era nad the emergence of scientific thought from religious dogma, then this is for you. It fits with my interest in maths, science, and social history - the Lutherans and Catholics are battling throughout - but it sometimes isn't absolutely clear where fact adn fiction are blended. If you want  to understand the times, it's great. As a reference work, perhaps not. But for my needs, it works well and provides an accessible insight that allows further study of areas that you pick up on, without the dry research to get to it. Or something.

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