Sunday, January 17, 2016

Loren J. Samons II

Loren J. Samons, II is Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University. He has published widely on Greek politics and history and on the relationship between ancient and modern democracy. His books include What's Wrong with Democracy? From Athenian Practice to American Worship (2004), Empire of the Owl: Athenian Imperial Finance (2000), and (with C. W. Fornara) Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles (1991).

Samons's latest book is Pericles and the Conquest of History: A Political Biography.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I’ve just completed two very different books, both non-fiction and both worthy, I think, of recommendation.

John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English presents a compelling and revisionist treatment of the language’s development by a practicing linguist. The book answers some interesting questions: for example, why does English employ “useless do”—“Did you see him?”— when other Germanic languages do not? The book doesn’t ask the reader to follow long, technical linguistic arguments but it also does not patronize. My only real criticism is that McWhorter, like most linguists, treats those interested in the “rules” of English grammar as mere pedants. But despite this minor annoyance, the book is compelling and a good example of how a scholar can write for a broader audience.

When I was in my twenties I became fascinated with T.E. Lawrence and read almost everything by or about him I could find. Today I finished Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Although centered on the figure of Lawrence, Anderson traces the careers of several other players—all of them young at the time—in the Middle Eastern theater of the First World War. For a Lawrence fan, the book does not provide the level of detail found in (say) Jeremy Wilson’s authorized biography nor is it a substitute for Lawrence’s own (failed but still compelling) Seven Pillars of Wisdom. But I think Anderson succeeds in placing Lawrence in his context through approaching certain issues and the times he confronted from several other angles (German espionage, American business/political interests in the region, and the Zionist movement).
Learn more about Pericles and the Conquest of History at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pericles and the Conquest of History.

My Book, The Movie: Pericles and the Conquest of History.

--Marshal Zeringue