I picked up Hypatia of Alexandria (Revealing Antiquity) after hearing about Agora, a film which made some waves at Cannes this year and should be showing on U.S. screens soon. It’ll be interesting seeing the movie after reading this book, as director Alejandro Amenábar’s Hypatia is exactly the type of literary Hypatia that Dzielska spends the first chapter of her book debunking.
This is a rather boring book about a really interesting subject. Hypatia, noted Alexandrian philosopher and mathematician of the fourth and fifth centuries, has variously been characterized as atheist, pagan, and consummate Neoplatonist. The causes and circumstances of her death at the hands of a Christian mob have been similarly obfuscated by a long series of historians and artists, each with their own agendas.
Dzielska goes deep into primary and secondary sources looking for answers, and what she comes back with is satisfying, if not terribly gripping. At the same time, she does a convincing job of not putting too much of her own spin on the topic. Unfortunately, Dzielska is mostly intent on arguing with other writers. The structure of her argument works against spinning a good yarn, and she puts in few or no details of what daily life in fourth century Alexandria was like.
This year’s film Hypatia is a sensuous freethinker played by Rachel Weisz, a far cry from the virginal, sexagenarian Christian of history. Weisz in a philosopher’s tribon should prove pretty easy on the eyes, but I don’t know… Judy Dench might’ve been a much better choice.
Eclipse Phase has officially gone to press. Although I’ve done minor writing and editing work in RPGs before, this will be the first time I’m credited as a writer. Although my word should not be taken as official, I imagine the core rules should be showing up in stores by August.
Go, little game!
Breakfast of champions is about a young farm boy named Yigg who has one eye on a stalk. He is also green — sometimes purple. When the hay harvest is ready, Yigg decides he no longer likes eating hay puffs and goes on a quest for better cereals. Tragically his eye stalk is severed. Blind, disoriented, still without cereal, Yigg comes upon a wise woman. The wise woman tells him that he can actually see. Heartened, Yigg presses on and falls into a well. It turns out he couldn’t see after all; the woman was a charlatan. Yigg dies a lonely death. Someone else gets cereal, but not him. When his spirit comes before Saint Peter, the whole narrative self-implodes in a wild burst of illogic (as this is a Vonnegut novel; Saint Peter simply has no place here). A tornado sweeps through heaven, casting Yigg down to his home planet, which, if you had not yet guessed, turns out to be Mars. The wells are running dry; the canals are barren. There is still no cereal. Yigg becomes a bull fighter. Since he is still blind, this ends poorly. Finally a bird arrives with news of a verdant land. Yigg, reconciled to his blindness, makes his way there with aid of a hurley stick and a seeing eye creature named Bono (no relation). A musical song & dance number ensues, but is interrupted by Martian bears. Not one of the dancers survives. Their gory remains fertilize the land. Wheat germinates. Yigg, regenerated (Martians can regenerate), harvests it and threshes it on a flat blue rock. The remaining seeds are added to a milky substance exuded by the local foliage. Yigg, having persevered, enjoys his breakfast. FIN.
In the spirit of misattributing texts on the intertr0nz to Kurt Vonnegut, I wrote this completely inaccurate plot summary of Breakfast of Champions this morning for a co-worker who made the mistake of asking me what the book was about.