I've updated my Amazon wishlist. Is posting the link really awful? I only remembered I had it when, after following a link to Martin West's translation of (and article on) the newly released Sappho poem, I ended up reading Edith Hall's review (scroll down) of Josephine Balmer's translations and poetry. Which of course I immediately coveted, and then realised that a) I had a wishlist and b) it's my 21st birthday on Tuesday. This is as much a recommendation as a request - from the sound of it, everyone else should read Balmer too. That you should read the Sappho poem, of course, goes without saying.
Theocritus Idyll 18:
The poet describes how he and his mates run through the meadows gathering garlands of flowers in honour of Helen, whom they all fancy. The hang the flowers and wreaths of lotus-vine on a plane-tree as a sort of public ritual to commemorate how much they fancy her, even though she's married already. The poet worships her, and yearns in particular for her breasts, "as a new-born lamb yearns for the teats of the mother-ewe" (Hellenistic lyric poets: Dodgy Similes R Us). He anoints the soil below the tree with oil in some sort of symbolic love act, and then graffitis the bark of the tree in Dorian letters, which read:
(line 48) "WORSHIP ME, I AM THE BUSH OF HELEN."
Oh my god, I want that line tattooed in Greek above my pubic hair so very, very much.
Surrealness! I just answered the door to a canvasser from our local MP. An attractive, young, blonde canvasser with good shoes. punkalou, in fact, whom I haven't seen for almost two years. Cue much squeaking of "ohmygod!" and bemused giggling. L, maybe we should meet up sometime and drink wiiiiiine?
I had an excellent weekend. On Friday evening elise, smhwpf, shreena and I saw Billy Bragg play at the Colston Hall in Bristol. We got there during the support band, whose name I didn't catch; they were a blues/electronica group with some fantastic rhythms and basslines and an excellent (and cute) tenor saxophonist, but the singer's voice really didn't blend with the rest of the sound, and their songs didn't seem to be about anything. Elise and I slipped out after a couple of songs and went to the bar. When we returned, Billy still wasn't on; we sat through an Indian guy speaking uninspiringly about Make Poverty History until, without any warning, Mark Steel came on stage. I've never heard his standup before and it was wonderful. Exactly what comedy should be. Hard-hitting, passionate, angry, absolutely fucking hilarious. Mainly he ranted about politics and religion, particularly New Labour and "all the bollocks about the Pope", and I was crying with laughter at the same time as applauding his sarcastically-expressed outrage. The evening would have been worth it just for that, but then Martyn Joseph and Steve Knightley were announced, also completely unexpectedly, which elicited a certain amount of squeaking from me. Apparently they've been touring together for the past three weeks. They mainly took it in turns to play their own songs while the other accompanied; I'd never heard MJ before, and he has an amazing voice. In the interval I bought the album they've recorded together. It was a shame not to see Phil Beer, but since I hadn't expected to see these guys at all I was more than happy.
Eventually Mr. Bragg came on at about 10pm, two and a half hours into the evening. His set only lasted 45 minutes but he was everything I knew he'd be. Forthright, rude, sincere, funny, heartbreaking. He played NPWA, Upfield, John Barleycorn, England Half English, I Keep Faith, All You Fascists, Power In A Union, World Turned Upside Down (which I was particularly happy about), Great Leap Forwards and A New England. For the encore he got Steve Knightley, Martyn Joseph, Mark Steel (who looked a bit uncertain about it all) and the blues singer onstage and did a group version of Redemption Song. Fucking amazing.
Two pieces of good news with which to start the week, both of which have made my insides twist with happiness and disbelief: Pakistan and India are at peace, and (is it wrong that I find this more exciting?) the Oxyrhynchus Papyri have begun to be decoded, making a potential addition of 20% to the current body of extant Greek and Roman literature. "The previously unknown texts, read for the first time last week, include parts of a long-lost tragedy - the Epigonoi ("Progeny") by the 5th-century BC Greek playwright Sophocles; part of a lost novel by the 2nd-century Greek writer Lucian; unknown material by Euripides; mythological poetry by the 1st-century BC Greek poet Parthenios; work by the 7th-century BC poet Hesiod; and an epic poem by Archilochos, a 7th-century successor of Homer, describing events leading up to the Trojan War." Well, that puts my dissertation into perspective.
Pervo, Richard I. 1987. Profit with Delight: The Literary Genre of the Acts of the Apostles, Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
I was intending to skim this for the relevant references and move on, but the guy has me completely hooked with his writing style. No doubt his dark sarcasm arises from the fact that Mr and Mrs Pervo saw fit to christen him "Dick". I'm only on chapter 2 and it's brilliant. It's not "popular scholarship" - as far as I can tell it's a rigorous academic discussion - but it is peppered with energetic re-tellings and cynical asides. A few choice morsels:
On "Luke the Historian": "Crisply put, Luke was well intentioned but dumb."
On historiography in Acts to account for the apparent divergences from Luke's gospel: "This solution is perhaps logical enough, but the basis for it is a bit more fragile than the quavering crust of learned consensus might indicate." (Quavering crust of learned consensus . Ooh, how much would I love to call my supervisors that.)
On Acts 19: "Who caused the riot at Ephesus? Pagan trash, agitated by aggrieved pagan craftsmen. Where was Paul? Sipping sherry with the high priests of the imperial cult." (Ha HA. So true.)
On the persecution of Paul and the apostles: "Popular literature often reflects the self-understanding of immature people, people of any age who see themselves as constant victims, who assign their problems to the machinations of others. This is the essential world view of the adolescent, but there are many unwilling to forsake it in later years." (Not that you were bullied in high school, Mr Pervo - oh no, not at all.)
There will no doubt be more :)