Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Other People's Books, Other People's Babies

My brother doesn't like to read for fun. (I know! But he's not embarrased by this). His "library" is thus a bit, shallow, and reflects his interests: cars and rifles and such. He has other books that serve as a kind of wallpaper. Since I am at his house now, and needed a book to read, I went with the wallpaper: volume 40 from the Britannica Great Books of the Western World series, volume 1 of Edward Gibbon's, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

All my reading life I have been seeing these nods and genuflections and references to Gibbon so, I thought, here's my chance. Three nights of reading have gotten me to page 7 (see above). You can probably guess why.

Well, if you are guessing it's because Gibbon is boring that's not right. But he demands concentration - that kind of concentration that you have to give to foreign language tapes if you're actually going to learn how to ask for a kilo of grapes and where is the emergency room - the kind that puts you to sleep. Focus! Focus! zzzzz.

I am actually in awe of the writing, though. No one writes like this anymore and while that may be a good thing for keeping the pages turning and film adaptations that can get Russell Crowe into a short tunic, I admire it. A lot.

I read this little sentence yesterday, about the political sequence in Rome at the time of the conquest of Britain:

After a war of about forty years, undertaken by the most stupid, maintained by the most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid of all the emperors, the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke.

Not for everybody, I suppose, but I think it's great. I also like the way he encapsulates the reasons for the defeat of the native Britons:

The various tribes of Britons possessed valour without conduct, and the love of freedom without the spirit of union. They took up arms with savage fierceness; they laid them down, or turned them agains each other with wild inconstancy; and while they fought singly, they were successively subdued.

I'll stop now.

Baby News

Talk about burying your lead! The Niblet is home. He's lovely. My brother asked me to handle a 6 AM feeding (based on a schedule they worked out at the hospital). I agreed, of course but added that the Niblet was unlikely to stick to a schedule. "When he wakes up and cries, feed him." My brother said, "he's used to getting fed at 6 AM." He set an alarm for me and I got up at 6. It has been all silence in the room of the little family since then and I have been reading blogs. Oh wait! I hear crying. Bye!


Lulu LaBonne said...

As a non-parent I am not allowed to have views on raising children - which is a good thing probably (my view is that they should all be swapped around because no-one ever gets the parents they wanted)

Babies are nice though so glad you're enjoying this one

R. Sherman said...

It's sad to think that writing like Gibbons' has been lost to our youth. There was a time when he was read in high school without any thought. (My father read Decline in the mid-1930's.) All is not progress, methinks.


KSV Woolfoot said...

Lulu - I don't remember much about that old movie, "King of the Gypsys" (I think I have the title right) but I remember a bit of interior dialogue of the main character. I'm paraphrasing but it was "Who you get for parents is the most important decision of your life and you have no say in it." Funny about the human condition. I made myself useful last night by taking charge between 1 AM and 7:30 AM. Most of that time on the couch holding baby and trying to find something good on cable (BTW - since when has cable started supplying porn at no charge and with no warning? I was afraid to surf channels!) Anyway, baby was so sweet and peaceful (as long as he was being held) it made me almost half think about another one for us.

R - I'll confess that I have moved onto my brother's show-copy of Moby Dick. The type is biggger at least.

uphilldowndale said...

Oh glory! Schedule, alarm clock?
Hello........ there is a BABY in the house. He calls the tunes, it is his birthright ;)
Not sure why I am feeling quite so unsympathetic here; I think you need to go home and let them take responsibility and maybe even bond with the wee chap..

neill said...

a newborn baby schedule! good one! :)

Madame DeFarge said...

I haven't read Gibbon, but am reading another book about the decline of the Western Roman Empire. I think I shall start Gibbon. His writing seems infinitely better than the one I'm reading.

KSV Woolfoot said...

Mrs. UHDD - You're right, of course, but they are all at sea right now. As I write I am back at home and they are all on their own now. I can't help worrying, the poor things are in shock, but that's how it goes.

OMN - Remember, they have only been parents for about 2 weeks and baby spent the first 11 days in the hospital, where nurses had a schedule posted over the little acrylic crib... My brother thought that was real for home use too. I think he has come around now.

Hi Mme - I think you may be the absolute perfect reader for Gibbon.

uphilldowndale said...

I just hope mum and dad have a some friends in the same boat, otherwise it could get a bit isolating.
Course if you get out and about with babe, he will introduce you to his circle of friends!!