I don’t mean to keep writing these little essays. It can’t be kept up, for one thing. I started reading Livy this past week. I’m sure I don’t know what I’m getting into. Reading it straight through will take long enough, but then there are the connections to everything else. Soon I can pick up Machiavelli’s Discourses. I’m looking forward to a conversation with The Prince’s steadier brother. Three or four of the biggest players so far in Livy have biographies in Plutarch, so I’ll need to get on that.
Livy’s account of Coriolanus, the Roman general who turned against his city, is interesting, and really gains from being given its setting in the ongoing struggle between the patricians and plebeians. Of course I couldn’t let this pass without rewatching Ralph Fiennes’ underappreciated 2011 version of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. I say underappreciated because it’s a very good movie and didn’t get a wide release, but when I went online to see if anyone else had noticed that the Volscians seemed to be Christians, I didn’t have any trouble finding weird reviews. This adaptation uses the look of modern protests, soldiers, and ubiquitous news cameras to great emotional effect, and so it’s not surprising that various takes on it would be politically charged. I find Coriolanus somewhat sympathetic, if far less so in Fiennes’ version, but still clearly a monster.
I’m still theoretically working on Sonya Kovalevsky’s autobiography, which I got on Google Books, but I may not get back to it until I get on the train next week. For some reason I find myself most likely to read books on my computer on long train trips. So far, not much math, but interesting anyhow. I also just picked up The Revenge of Geography, by Robert Kaplan. The article in the New York Review piqued me with its evasiveness on contemporary politics and strange emphasis on the provenance of certain ideas, or cliches, in geography. Anyone who’s read Dune already knows that desert nomad types are the ne plus ultra of badassery. I’m skeptical, but I like maps and think a lot about how we come to understand history, so I’ll give it a try.