Friday, May 13, 2011

What's New On the Bookshelf?

Stacy Schiff has written a new biography of Cleopatra that has drawn a lot of attention. The jacket image of a woman’s head, from the back, does not evoke the right period but is striking and appropriately opulent. I had read Vera, an earlier work by this author and loved learning lots of unexpected details about the life of Nabokov’s wife. Now Ms. Schiff has focused her awesome research capabilities on a more famous figure but someone who lived so long ago that reliance on contemporary sources was not possible. Therefore we get a variety of opinions regarding what happened, which creates cumbersome reading, in my opinion. Ms. Schiff uses modern language and idioms that jolt the reader. To provide an example, she might say something like Mark Anthony had a “bucket list” of deeds to accomplish. At first I liked this style of writing but it wore on me as I progressed through the chapters. Anyone who is fascinated by the ancient world will probably enjoy this biography. It sure makes a beautiful book!