Tag Archives: book review

The Heroic Age Revisited: ‘The Tale of Troy’, by Roger Lancelyn Green – review

The Tale of TroyThe Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

History is a branch of literature woven by artists and artificers with stories full of events, places, and people embroidered on the latticework of time, which mirrors the invariable pith of humanity to posterity. In truth, history is a literary creation of reality in the habiliment of artistic imagination, which we call mythology. In this regard, The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green is a refreshingly cracking retelling of historical Trojan War knitted together with mythological strands as though to be seen from a magical casement to the misty antiquity, which Herodotus defines as the Heroic Age of the Five Ages of Man (which, by the way, Ovid interestingly omitted in his Roman version of the Ages of Men) when divine immortals responded to your pleas directly and promptly and freely made love with their beautiful mortal subjects with unquelled divine lust.

Drawn on a compendium of classical narratives of ancient writers, principally Homer’s Iliad, Green retells the beginning and end of Trojan War, reprises the scenes of the heroic characters and capricious Immortals, and remasters the thematic theater of dramas collapsing a great divide of time and space with his genius story-telling skills as an erudite but affable raconteur. Green takes you to the wedding banquet of Menelaus and Helen in Sparta where the goddess of discord Eris first presented an apple of discord, to Paris of Troy happily living with Oenone, a mountain nymph, on Mount Ida, to the Greek Camp outside the Wall of Troy where Agamemnon and Achilles were having a row over their beautiful Trojan female captives, and to Odysseus’s 10-year journey back home in Ithaca. The tale of Troy regenerates more stories about the fates of the characters following the end of the epic war, which leads to the dawn of the Iron Age, the Age of Man, in which we live. The Tale of Troy is a literary equivalent of Matryoshka, a frame story that presents manifold stories that delight you with pleasant surprises.

The great Roman poet Horace once said it’s harder to treat a story in your own way. In fact, to retell a story is harder than to create one from void because it requires a special ability with the aid of natural wit to make the original source texts adapt to the contemporary readership of the time the author belongs to. To that effect, this book is a magical casement of the misty past told by a Homeric storyteller of our modern time who will take you to where the ancient ocean sends forth the breeze of the shrill Aegean Sea to let you sail an imaginary voyage with the Greek Kings and the Trojan refugees, while the Olympian gods are watching you from Mount Olympus.

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glittery wild west

I have recently read an article about California Gold Rush from my subscribed British history magazine with particular interest as it was somehow relatable to my own experience of being a recent single pioneer woman from the East to the West with new prospects for the future. Although the article was informative in unpicking the social manifest and latent dysfunctions of Gold Rush, there were also new and innovative modes of business as spearheaded by adventurously daring individuals who paved the way to the prosperity of the Wild West in years to come. 

Wells, Fargo & Company, founded by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo, started and prospered the West’s all-purpose business, consisting of transportation, security, and communication agents, buying gold from prospectors and selling them paper bank drafts and delivering the valuables and mail guarded by a hired detective against outlaws. Pony Express, founded by William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell, was the first express courier service in the U.S., delivering mail from California to New York in fifteen (15) days by dedicated excellent employees on horseback day and night until the transcontinental telegraph was established. And there’s the famed Levi Strauss, the founder of the iconic Strauss & Co., who made the first blue jeans for miners, cowboys, etc. 

California Gold Rush prompted a huge spike in the demand for changes in various sectors of the American society, which was an inevitable calling of the ethos, Manifest Destiny, and it also begot some of the most interesting and impressive enterprising spirits whose establishments are still among us and whose names are made into the history of the U.S. 

The Mad, the Beautiful: ‘The Highly Sensitive’, by Judy Dyer – review

The Highly Sensitive: How to Stop Emotional Overload, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative EnergyThe Highly Sensitive: How to Stop Emotional Overload, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Energy by Judy Dyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Come and read this book if it’s about you. –

If you feel why life can’t be lived at the same pitch
Of your mind’s notes written in the heart’s chamber;
If you find the utter cry of your heart without a hitch
In a solitary sea of words rolling and heaving under
A rainbow of vivid imaginations and fleeting emotions;
And your spirit often rebels and refuges in the ether
From the detritus of broken promises and shattered dreams,

You were born of the mystic race of the Highly Sensitive
Of Fire, Spirit, and Dew in the wondrous alchemy of beauty,
So beautiful, so wonderful, so delightful that your eyes are lit
With twinkles of shiny waters, sparkles of diamonds
That which adonize you with the Supreme One of Mystery.

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The unlikely duo

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The Unlikely Act: Jack the Baboon and James the Signalman, courtesy of google.com

As a regular customer of a commuter rail, I sometimes wish there was a signalman at my home station instead of an impersonal ticket vending machine without a proper waiting area on a barren platform that makes the nondescript station all the more desolate, drab, and dreary. California wintry mornings are treacherously cold and heartless; they make you yearn for a conspicuous presence of a guiding light of humanity. So it gave me a fillip when I happened on an article about an extraordinary duo from my subscription magazine on the train. 

Let’s take Time Train to Uitenhage in Cape Town, South Africa circa 1890. Meet Jack the Baboon and his senior partner James, the Signalman working side by side watching a train coming toward their station from a distance. James brought Jack to his station after losing both of his legs in a train accident to train the primate to push him around in a trolly, as well as to operate the train signals. Jack was indeed James’s working avatar and a best buddy at work. For good nine years, Jack’s work performance excelled some of his human colleagues, which earned him official employment for which he was paid twenty cents a day and a half a bottle of beer a week. A laborer is indeed worthy of his reward. 

signalman-jack-3

Jack and James at work, courtesy of google.com

Fast forward the mind’s cinema projector, and I am back at the same home station in the wee hours of cold, rainy California morning. There’s neither Jack nor James, except for a motley of hooded figures of would-be passengers on the platform. All seems crude and cruel except a light with a whistle approaching the station growing bigger and bolder, and I welcome it with the feeling of thankfulness mixed with adventurousness into an unknown new day

‘Joan of Arc: A Life from beginning to end’ by Hourly History – review

Joan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to EndJoan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They condemned her as an irreparable heretic, apostate, idolater, and witch and then burned her at stake even though she saved them from their enemy. And yet, in spite of such egregious treachery of her own countrymen, she knew no surrender to fear with stalwart faith in the Cause she intransigently believed to be her divine mission from the greatest man above as the flame rose to her nose, and then engulfed her therein, turning her to ashes. She was no less a figure than Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, the Virgin of Lorraine, whose bravery and belief – be it ever spiritual or psychological- epitomizes existential will to meaningfulness to live a purposeful life, as is vividly and elegantly related in this book.

Each chapter draws up on the substantial aspects of Joan’s purposes, acts, and achievements rather than illustrates religious or spiritual overtones in anecdotes or legends to glow her in a halo. The narrative takes us to where Joan of Arc witnessed the English occupiers’ hectoring of her village folks, including little children by beating, and we feel her indignation at the perpetrators of such violence on her soil. We also come to know that the divine messages she received were not directly from God but through St. Michael, the archangel, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine as the messengers of God with the three divine missions. That Joan of Arc had three cardinal missions of (1) taking up arms; (2) rallying the French to defeat the English occupying army; and (3) putting the Dauphine Charles on the French throne betokens her guiding lights of her life, her purpose of life that constantly reminded her of a “why” to live for. So we follow Joan, a tall and lean girl with her raven hair cut in bob attired in shining armor that weighted about twenty pounds to the frontlines of hand-to-hand combats fighting against the English army without her helmet on to boost morale of the French soldiers and got her neck pierced by an arrow. Then the narrative puts us forward to the dark cell of Joan harassed by five lewd English guards and to the heaps of stake where her body was consumed to ashes.

The lucidly vivid descriptions of each chapter in cogently casual narrative are the elemental force of this book that brings the grist to the mill for the visualization of the whole story as though it were played on a screen. In fact, while I was reading toward the end of the book, a song called “Bigmouth Strikes Again” by the Smiths, in which Morrissey sings, “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt” was starting to being played in my mental stereo set with heightened emotions. It also illustrates the canonical facts that many of us may be unaware of: (1) that it was the French, including the dauphin who later became Charles VI wholly thanks to Joan, who sold her to the English; (2) that Joan, for none other reason than being only human, attempted at several escapes which ended in foils; and that (3) it was twenty-two years after her death on fraudulent grounds of treachery and heresy that the Trial of Rehabilitation exonerated her from such preposterously erroneous charges, thanks to the troubling conscience of Charles VI who belatedly endeavored to make it happen.

This is an excellent primer on further study on Joan of Arc with a comprehensive overview of the time as regards the relationship between the Church and the politics, the role of the Church, and its dominance over society, let alone people. It will induce you to look at Joan of Arc not as mythological French virgin whose legacy exclusively appertains to the French as their patron saint only, but as a human who tried to do what she believed was right despite any biological or social inhibitions that she had to rise above. In this regard, Joan is an emblematic figure of courage, hope, and self will to achieve her existential values as someone with purposes in life, someone whom we can identify with in one way or another in our daily struggles of contemporary life. Upon reading this book, you will come to understand what made the American humorist Mark Twain offer such approbation: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Indeed, her steadfast attitude toward her firm belief is something we can deem truly inspiring and remedial to apply to our own way of fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks in life.