Monday, October 11, 2010

"A walk that blends past with present" - The Philadelphia Inquirer on SPARTACUS ROAD

In between coverage of the Phillies (glowing) and the Eagles (tepid), the Philadelphia Inquirer's books section ran a terrific review of Peter Stothard's ON THE SPARTACUS ROAD this weekend. Penned by Frank Wilson, the paper's former book review editor, the review really captures what we feel to be the spirit of this book. Click here to read the review in its entirety, or scroll down for a few excellent excerpts.

Peter Stothard's account of his journey along that road makes for an extraordinary book...
It is indeed "a classicist's notebook," and it is this, more than anything, that makes it so extraordinary. Time, for Stothard, is less a linear continuum than a palimpsest.


By the time one has finished Spartacus Road, one has learned just about all there is to know about the slave leader, his victories, and his final defeat - his body was never found. One also has learned about a good deal else besides, from Frontinus the aqueduct maker to the poet Statius and his epic Thebaid to the word latifundia, "first used in the time of Pliny for giant sparsely populated tracts."

But what one learns of most of all is a sensibility, all too rare these days, that enables someone like Peter Stothard to sense how, at least in certain locales, the distant past interpenetrates the present and immeasurably enriches it.

"Returning to old books," Stothard says in his prologue, "is like returning to old friends." Anyone who becomes acquainted with this book is bound to find himself making one return visit after another.

Happy Monday to you all, and safe travels back this week from Frankfurt from any of you who were lucky enough to be there!

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