The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination by Barry Strauss (Simon & Schuster, March 2015) examines the traditions of the assassination of Julius Caesar, clearing up the myths (such as Shakespeare’s play) from reality. Analyzing such an historic event from 44 B.C. is not easy since eyewitness accounts are few and far between and records of supposed eyewitnesses are always questioned. Yet, Strauss’s book provides an entertaining and thorough examination of the most pressing people and events leading up to the assassination, the deed itself, and the immediate result.Continue Reading
I have never watched a “train-wreck” reality show. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever watched a reality show, unless you count the cooking shows like Iron Chef America. I have no desire to watch reality shows (beyond learning to cook, that is), and I don’t understand the appeal.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, depicts how in the futuristic world of Panem, which emerged from the ashes of a war-torn North America, the government produces a televised reality show in which 24 teenagers kill each other. The purpose of the Hunger Games is to illustrate how the government provides everything for the populace and that without the government’s wise support, anarchy and personal battle will reign over the land. People in the far-off districts depend on the Capitol for support. The Hunger Games illustrate what would happen if people rebelled against authority: chaos and murder.
Yet, The Hunger Games is not about savagery or murder. It is about defiance. Katniss volunteers herself, eager to save the life of her twelve-year-old sister Prim, whose name has been selected from the lottery. And from the beginning of the games until the end, Katniss hates the games, hates the Capitol’s philosophies, and hates the forced murdering game she is a part of. In that sense, she is a hero.Continue Reading
Today begins the Golden Age of Detective Fiction Classics Circuit, and I have the honor of beginning the tour with reviews of two mystery novels. See the full schedule to see where the tour goes next.
It is rather ironic that I get to start off this great tour, because after reading my two novels, I’ve decided pretty strongly that I am not a great fan of the mystery novel. Although I enjoyed both of them, I found myself a bit bored, I’m sorry to say.
That said, both novels actually were rather excellent, just not my favorite genre. If you, like me, do not normally read mystery and would like to try one, either Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express or Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers would both be great books to start with, although for different reasons.
“Crime and Punishment,” says Richard Pevear in his introduction, “is a highly unusual mystery novel: the most mystified character in it is the murderer himself.”
At first glance, there is no mystery. The answers to “who, what, when, and where” seem self-evident, especially since the murder occurs center stage in the first 80 pages of the novel. Yet the “why” behind Raskolnikov’s crime arrests attention, and the mystery is determining exactly what is the “punishment” of the title. From the beginning section to the epilogue, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s psychological novel captures a disturbed mind in turmoil from its own philosophic ideals. Raskolnikov’s expectations for himself as a “Napoleon” above the law are distorted by his own inner turmoil, and his “punishment” may be realizing his place as a human in the midst of humanity.
But I say “at first glance.” The best facet of Crime and Punishment is its depth. An abundance of characters, some stereotyped and some individual, and layers of complexities of situation and personality illustrate just how each one of us has both a “devil” and a “saint” inside us.
As the Penguin Reading Guide asks, “Who among us is not a criminal? Who among us has not attempted to impose his or her will on the natural order?” I love Crime and Punishment because of the universality of that concept. The concepts do not seem specifically Russian or nineteenth century. Instead, it is universal in its look at human nature, and human nature has not changed much in the past 150 years, although the specific settings vary.