I finished rereading The Man in the High Castle. I found the character development and plotting a bit muddled and, while I had remembered a subtle metaphysic that would justify and make interesting the alternate time track, it was not worked out in the book, though, judging from Dick's other books, he had developed a coherent theory in his mind. My verdict: Enjoyable, far from a waste of time, but needed a second or third revision.
We’re continuing our rather spotty reading of Gibbon, but it is as great a pleasure as the previous times, perhaps even more because reading Gibbon’s periods aloud is like listening to his contemporary Haydn. For cheap entertainment I've been browsing through the Loeb volumes of the so-called Augustan History that covers the period (roughly) from Septimius Severus to Gallienus, not one of higher spots in Roman history. The accuracy and truthfulness of the writers has been subjected to serious and valid doubts, though when non-classicists read summary articles they conclude it is all lies, when clearly it is not. The names of the emperors are often right, most of the battles and significant events described took place, though not perhaps as they are described by the writers. Imagine someone on Facebook, who takes his history from Wikipedia and Amazon.com reviews and then never double-checks his sources. Suppose he also owns and has even read a few reliable accounts but cannot distinguish between serious historical writing and pop junk. To me, these writers are perfectly credible as dopes who thought they were writing real history. They'd probably be working for Breitbart or Drudge or the History Channel.
I reread (having forgotten I’d read it before) Colin Dexter’s rather smutty The Riddle of the Third Mile. I rather like the Inspector Morse novels, partly because Dexter, trained in classics, has fun with Morse’s not always perfect erudition. Though I watched the television series, I have only read half a dozen or so. They are funnier and a bit more humanly complex than the TV programs, though I do not fault the producers. They did what is necessary to bring the novels to life on television. I am not sorry I read this one, but I cannot say I was especially pleased.
I was even less pleased by Daniel Woodrell’s Woe to Live On, the source for the film Ride with the Devil. Woodrell tries too hard to achieve a gritty realism that the roughest men of the 1860’s would have deplored, and, while I suppose our hero undergoes a moral transition from being a Confederate guerrilla with a conscience to being a married man, the plot—if a plot there is—does not sustain the development. This is a rare instance of the film being better than the book.
A month ago, I started rereading Euripides Iphigenia among the Taurians, which I found more interesting than on previous reads. It’s time to drop the junk fiction and return to something more demanding. E. Morse would certainly approve the decision, though he would be unlikely to keep off the booze long enough to read Greek.