A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I love Xenophon. He is a rare breed: philosopher, soldier, historian and mercenary. I imagine him as a 4th century BC combination of Teddy Roosevelt and William T. Vollmann. Memorabilia is a nice piece to read along with Plato's dialogues. While Plato's remembrances of Socrates are more philosophic and cerebral, Xenophon presents a slightly different and more down to earth picture of the great ethical philosopher.
Nabokov's violin playing in the void of a totalitarian nightmare. Invitation to a Beheading belongs in those 20th Century novels by Orwell, Huxley, Kafka and Koestler that explore the individual revolting against an absurd totalitarianism. Cincinnatus C is an opaque prisoner being punished by a translucent society for his gnostical turpitude. With a Gogol-like playfulness and a Kafkaesque absurdity and a linqusitic inventiveness that belongs solely to Nabokov,
'Invitation to a Beheading' explores the many ways the state (and society) acts to destroy or force conformity on those whose vision is different. Beware those who transgress social norms, your days are both numbered ... and infinite
I should give a quick intro and say that I rarely EVER, EVER re-read a book. I should also mention that 3 years ago I had never cracked Dante's Divine Comedy. Now, I am finishing the Divine Comedy for the 3rd time. I've read Pinsky's translation of the Inferno. I've read Ciardi. I've flirted with Mandelbaum and danced with Hollander, but from Canto 1 of Inferno/Hell to Canto XXXIII of Paradiso/Heaven, I can't say I've read a better version than the Clive James translation.
He replaced the terza rima (**A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D-E-E** a measure hard to write without poetic stretch marks in English) with the quatrain, and in doing so made the English translation his own. It gives the Divine Comedy the verbal energy and the poetry that makes inferior translations a slog and makes Dante so damn difficult to translate well. A mediocre translation might capture the stripes but lose the tiger. Clive James pulled off a master translation of one of the greatest works of art in any medium -- ever.