Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Literary Culture - Roman Style

... money-­making booksellers, exploited and impoverished authors, celebrity book launches and career-making prizes ...
Classics professor Mary Beard isn't writing about the contemporary literary scene in The New York Times, but about how things were in ancient Rome, and there are some fascinating parallels.

I liked this :
The Roman launch party took the form of select readings from the work, given semi-publicly or at exclusive invitation-only events, perhaps in the home of a rich patron. These could be just as frustrating for the author as the modern book launch where only half the expected guests turn up, drink a polite glass of wine and beat a hasty retreat without buying a copy. Pliny, writing in the early second century A.D., complained that in Rome “there was scarcely a day in April when someone wasn’t giving a reading,” and that the poor authors had to put up with small audiences, most of whom slipped out before the end anyway.
It's so reassuring that things don't change much over time!

Beard sounds like a fun academic - there was a very nice piece a short while back in The Guardian about the most popular jokes in Roman times. You can read her regular column in The Times.

1 comment:

Yusuf Martin said...

And how many people, I wonder, realise that Symposium is the Greek term for a piss up!