". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reading Wednesday Early: When One Can't Read, One Can Listen: Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Tomorrow we leave on the first phrase of The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave Breeding Industry (pub. date October 1st!).  This means there won't be much work-out time in October and November.  But I still have books lined up, just in case I have a long afternoon in a hotel.

Since I finished listening to Twain's Life on the Mississippi (1883), Caesar: Life of a Colossus (2006) by Adrian Goldsworthy, has taken its place as my audio book for my workouts

From just the beginning, which I've heard this week -- this one is another splendid choice, another historical space that I can sink into while doing the workouts, which helps to motivate me to do the workout, as I look forward to hearing more. Like TASC, Lawrence in Arabia, Life on the Mississippi, Caesar is a long book too, filled with so Roman history and descriptions of cultural practices and the reasons for them -- anything and everything as long as it helps explain, illuminate and describe the work's central subject.

Adrian Goldsworthy, ancient historian and novelist
Goldsworthy warns at the top of his text that this book is a life of Caesar -- it doesn't go beyond his death and argue about whether he had made Rome an imperium * before Augustus, though, as Goldsworthy does with all arguments, acknowledges the argument exists

It's initially an awkward adjustment when I leave one world behind and move into a new one. My immersion into these book universes is so complete during the time of the workout, that when the book's finished, there's no traction to depart and go into another time and place.

However the very point of listening to these books while working out is that they aren't a systematic reading of anything -- these books are my brain and memory's vacation from the subject matter that fills The American Slave Coast.  Even so I've listened to quite a few books that helped inform the historical matter that makes up TASC, such as books on the American Gold Rush, and books that have dealt with Baltimore's clippers and their roles in both the U.S. slave and opium trades.

I hated leaving those books  just as much as I've been reluctant to end Daniel Boone, or move on from Lawrence In Arabia's WWI in the middle east and enter the history of the Mississippi River Valley.  But how fickle the heart!  It usually takes only about 15 minutes of listening to make that transition from one world to another, which is about the same it takes me to transition into full work-out state of mind and body -- the warm-ups. Once the warm-ups are finished when I begin a new book, I'm fully into the new, the previous passion recollected with an affectionate, but distant sigh.

Here's an informative review of Caesar: Life of a Colossus. I don't remember reading about the book when it came out. I wonder why? Ah, probably still consumed by raising money and so on after Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of the Levees.

I appreciate Goldsworthy's choices in telling Caesar's life. He acknowledges and marvels at the many roles that Caesar played, including lover and seducers of other people's spouses.  Yet he centers the two elements that made the man extraordinary, the reasons he's still a household name: how Caesar wielded and melded so well the two roles that all men of his class were expected to enact as scions of the ruling rank, that of the politician and the military leader, through which their name, their family and their clan retained and acquired more power and wealth.

As for other options for double-billing, so to speak, while working out, television/movies aren't one of them. I can't concentrate on the visuals.

Neither is fiction an option. Over my lifetime I've read so many novels, and some of them too many times, so its seldom they can hold my interest all the way through. The violence that frequently interrupts a good adventure story -- I can't just fast forward through it like I can when reading.

The problem I have with some of the brilliant non-fiction to which I listen, is the necessity to stop and write down thoughts and so on provoked by the book. There have been some books where I kept a notebook and pen right next to me.

Mostly though these books function as historical break, an opportunity to get out of the historical world of TASC and into somewhere, sometime else. Another book I have lined up is a biography of William the Marshall.

Talk radio/news programs work are best for scrubbing the bathroom and other related tasks.

Music of course, always works, no matter what else one is doing.


*   Last night we learned that "imperial" was added to the English language lexicon only with the declaration of Queen Victoria as Emperor of India.  This came via our (long now -- this is a very long book) current before bed read-aloud volume. The English and Their History by Robert Tombs.

No comments: