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Mid July-12 August, A.D.74
"A book may be defined ...as a written (or printed) message of considerable length, meant for public circulation and recorded on materials that are light yet durable enough to afford comparatively easy portability."
"[The creditor] examines your family affairs; he meddles with your transactions. If you go forth from your chamber, he drags you along with him and carries you off; if you hide yourself inside he stands before your house and knocks at the door.
"If [the debtor] sleeps, he sees the moneylender standing at his head, an evil dream....If a friend knocks at the door he hides under the couch. Does the dog bark? He breaks out in a sweat. The interest due increases like a hare, a wild animal which the ancients believed could not stop reproducing even while it was nourishing the offspring already produced."
Basil of Caesarea
POETRY SHOULD HAVE BEEN SAFE.
"Take your writing tablets up to our new house," suggested Helena Justina, my elegant partner in life. I was struggling against shock and physical exhaustion, acquired during a dramatic underground rescue. Publicly, the vigiles took the credit, but I was the mad volunteer who had been lowered headfirst down a shaft on ropes. It had made me a hero for about a day, and I was mentioned by name (misspelled) in the Daily Gazette. "Just sit and relax in the garden," soothed Helena, after I had rampaged about our tiny Roman apartment for several weeks. "You can supervise the bathhouse contractors."
"I can supervise them if they bother to turn up."
"Take the baby. I may come too-we have so many friends abroad nowadays, I ought to work on The Collected Letters of Helena Justina."
What-by a senator's daughter? Most are too stupid and too busy counting their jewelry. None are ever encouraged to reveal their literary skills, assuming they have them. But then, they are not supposed to live with informers either.
"Badly needed," she said briskly. "Most published letters are by smug men with nothing to say."
Was she serious? Was she privately romancing? Or was she just twisting the rope on my pulley to see when I snapped? "Ah well," I said mildly. "You sit in the shade of a pine tree with your stylus and your great thoughts, fruit. I can easily run around after our darling daughter at the same time as I'm keeping a check on a bunch of slippery builders who want to destroy our new steam room. Then I can dash off my own little odes whenever there's a pause in the screaming and stone-cutting."
Every would-be author needs solitude and tranquillity.
It would have been a wonderful way to pass the summer, escaping from the city heat to our intended new home on the Janiculan Hill-except for this: the new home was a dump; the baby had embarked on a tantrum phase; and poetry led me into a public recital, which was foolish enough. That brought me into contact with the Chrysippus organization. Anything in commerce that looks like a safe proposition may be a step on the route to grief.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Lindsey Davis
Posted December 9, 2008
In 74 AD informer Marcus Didius Falco (in modern terms this means he is a private investigator) believes he is a talented poet. After giving a reading of his works, an employee of Aurelius Chrysippus approaches Marcus to inform him that his master, banker and owner of a scriptorium, enjoys his poetry and wants to see it published. An elated Marcus arranges to meet with Aurelius. However, his euphoria quickly ends when Falco soon learns that Aurelius expects payment for publication. Disappointed and disgusted, Falco leaves. Not long afterward, Falco learns that someone killed Aurelius shortly after their meeting. Falco is hired to find the killer, which proves arduous because the victim made so many enemies that his anti-fan club could fill the Coliseum with SRO. <P> The twelfth Falco Ancient Rome mystery shows how the readers how the Romans feel about Greeks, banking, and publishing. In many ways, this entry is written tongue in cheek as Lindsey Davis satirizes publishing, banking, and detectives. Thus the audience obtains an educated, humorous and well-written who-done-it that retains a freshness not all series have when they reach the twelth plateau. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 3, 2011
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