Dewey Decimal Project: 933 JOS Flavius Josephus: selections from his works

The 930s are the history of the ancient world (not surprisingly, Cover of Flavius Josephus ith the majority of the numbers reserved for the ancient world that was under the rule of the Greeks and Romans). Looking over the options, I spotted this collection of the works of Josephus. 

Josephus is best-known as being one of the earliest non-Biblical attestations to the existence of Jesus,¹ but it provides a good overview of the status of the Jews in the Roman era in the first century AD. One of the more dramatic incidents that Jospehus describes is the siege at Masada (which, like a lot of the history I learned in my youth, I learned about through an “event” mini-series on network TV. Overall, it was an interesting account of personages that I knew primarily from Biblical sources along with other context that I might not have otherwise known.

  1. I remember knowing only that he was mentioned in Josephus and finding it absurd that the people who would deny the historicity of Jesus (i.e., that there never was such a person executed by the Romans around 33CE), would discount this as a witness—although looking at the actual text, it’s a bit more understandable. But having investigated it a bit, it seems likely that the surviving testimony is a modified version of what Josephus originally wrote with later Christian emendations.

Dewey Decimal Project: 920.72 DIN Alone! Alone! Lives of Some Outsider Women

The 920s are biography. My library, like Cover of Alone Alone any others, shelves most biographies separately, alphabetically by author (this is one of the things that I like about the Library of Congress system—there, literature, for example, is shelved by country/language and grouped by era and biographies and critical work are shelved alongside the authors’ work. Similarly, biographies of notable people in other fields are shelved with other books in that field). As a result, there aren’t a large number of books in this part of the shelves. I decided that this might make for some interesting reading, but alas, it turns out that here Dinnage is largely repurposing reviews that she had written elsewhere rather than approaching her subjects for their own sake. 


“The Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behavior”:

This story was one that unfolded itself gradually over time. It started with the title which came to me one day during a residency NewImage for my MFA. I wrote down the title and even got so far as writing down a list of self-destructive behaviors, but put it aside for a while after that.

I picked it up again a year later and wrote the first draft pretty quickly and painlessly. The “zeroeth-person” point of view of the story was something that just evolved as I wrote the story when I was about halfway through and realized that I hadn’t written in first, second or third-person, exactly. Pretty much everything emerged from my subconscious in the writing process.

Then I put the first draft away and didn’t look at it for three years. When I worked on the rewrite, I found my self thinking that I had something really good here and I worried about ruining it. I spent some time revising it and then in May of 2018 I sent it out on submission.

It got rejected, but it had a very high level of positive responses. I let it lie fallow for a while longer, and then pulled it back up once I was back in a writing group. Probably the single most important thing was identifying one of the sections, “Violence towards others” as problematic. That was enough to, I thought, make the story perfect or at least close to it. It garnered a few more rejections, but now I was getting personalized rejections from journals who had only ever sent me form letters before. Eventually, it was picked up by Meniscus, the Journal of the AAWP.

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Writerly resolutions: June status

Progress has slowed but not stalled on the novel.NewImage Rewriting chapter 26 is a challenge since I’ve also been reading multiple books about the Exodus 1947 which is at the center of the chapter which has often revealed details that required rewriting scenes as well as occasional direct contradictions between one source and the next.

Rewriting the short story is also progressing slowly and I have just one week to get it done and revised if I want to have it for my next turn up with my writing group.

And the most recent acceptance has also turned into a publication. Meniscus is the journal which was the first to publish one of my poems, so it was nice to return to their pages in a different genre.

Something Interesting: Microwave Lasagna

I’ve (finally) released the first post on my mailing list. It’s about microwave lasagna. There’s also a recommendation and a link to my latest story. 

Dewey Decimal Project: 910.45 DUN Pirate women : the princesses, prostitutes, and privateers who ruled the Seven Seas

Looking for a different change of pace, for thCover of Pirate Womene 910s—Geography and Travel—I decided to give this book about women pirates a look. Of course, as Duncombe is quick to acknowledge, there is little information about her subject available. In some cases the “pirate” women (Duncombe is a bit expansive in her definition of pirate) may have existed only in legend, and for those who did exist, the documentary evidence is slim.

Still, it’s nice to see reminders that piracy extends beyond the “golden age” of pirates—the Pirates of the Caribbean–style buccaneers that dominate the American imagination, and that there were pirates in other places and times. There are times when the tone gets a bit didactic and Duncombe spends more time than is necessary belaboring the lack of information about her subjects, but it was an entertaining enough read.


Dewey Decimal Project: 901 JAC Dark Age Ahead

This was my first read for this project after the NewImage ibrary reopened after the first Covid shutdown. In the apocalyptic summer of 2020, this seemed an appropriate introduction to the final 100 of the Dewey Decimal System—history.

Written in 2004, Jacobs was warning of an impending “dark age” where we wiykd see a collapse of society through cultural amnesia.

The future is notoriously difficult to predict, and Jacobs, has her flaws as a futurist. Certainly, she failed to see the danger of the rise of Trumpism and anti-democratic movements both in the U.S. and across the world, but while her specifics were often off, she did accurately assess broad issues with the culture that persist with or without Trumpism and even with the anti-democratic forces still a threat, other issues continue to be problematic. Certainly, in the midst of the pandemic, seeing many in power insist that economic continuity trumped all was a shining example of what Jacobs called bad science.


Writerly resolutions: May status

I continue to make progress on the novel,Progress on the novel—steady increase through the first half of the month, then a complete 1st draft, and the rest of the month I've been reading what I have for the 2nd draft rewrite with the first draft of chapter 26 done. It’s a big chapter—28 pages—so reading what I have in preparation for the second draft rewrite is taking a while and I keep making changes as I do my research (this is probably the best-documented historical event in the novel so there’s a wealth of material to use).

The rewrite of the short story is progressing, albeit more slowly than I would like still. The rewrite draft is revealing things I didn’t know before which is a good problem to have. I did miss my writers’ group deadline with the rewrite (maybe this month?) so I pulled another story out of my backlog and have a big rewrite to do on that one too.

The “publication soon” happened. And there’s another acceptance in the mean time. I love my writing group. They’re an outstanding bunch of readers with great insights into my work and its deficiencies.

Dewey Decimal Project: 892.1 GIL Þ

For a long time, I had managed to confuse in my mind GCover of Gilgameshilgamesh and Beowulf, most likely because of the earliness of the two narratives. I did puzzle about how I had managed to miss the flood story in Beowulf, not realizing my mistake. But then, I have a long history of this sort of confusion: as a child I had thought that Hogan’s Heroes and MASH were the same show and couldn’t understand why sometimes they were trying to escape. And after nearly two years, my wife pointed out that the Director of Curriculum and Director of Administration at my kids’ school are two different people.

But I’m older and (a little) wiser now so I know that Gilgamesh and Beowulf are different works and I hadn’t read the former, so when I got to the 890s, which encompasses the literatures of anywhere that doesn’t use the languages of Western Europe, I decided to pick up this book. 

Reader, I was amazed. It’s a gripping story, one which feels almost modern in its concerns. Certainly, there are parts that feel fable-like, but overall it’s a fascinating read and its interest extends beyond its presentation of a version of the flood myth which predates the Hebrew Bible. I’m surprised that no one has made a film of the story. It would make a good movie.


Dewey Decimal Project: 882 EUR Iphigeneia at Aulis

Greek literature gets its own decade in the Cover of Iphigeneia at Aulis800s and I decided to pull this one off the shelf since (a) I’ve heard the title before (thanks to an assortment of operas whose titles I’ve heard even if I’ve never seen/heard any of them) and (2) it was reasonably short.

Many of the classic Greek stories are familiar even if we’ve not read the source material. I read Oedipus Rex a few months before I read this play and although I’d not read the Sophocles before, I still knew the outline of the story well thanks to its being deeply ingrained in the culture. On the other hand I’d managed somehow to not know this story which is part of the broader narrative of the Trojan war. The story is a dark tale, a tragedy in the classical Greek sense of the word, and Merwin’s translation makes it all the more powerful. I can see why it was a popular source for so many operas.