It’s been a rough couple of weeks for many reasons – but mostly because my little cat Max, who had been with me for almost 15 years, died last week after a pretty awful period of illness.
Adjusting to his absence has been strange.
I’ve lived in this house for 15 years, and for all but the first few months of that time, Max has been here too. He’s still here, everywhere I look, in the ways I move around the house and the things that I do. Certain spots in the house have always belonged to Max, and have had to be kept free for his use in case he deployed his Sad Eyes. I’ve always had to keep the cupboard under the stairs firmly closed because he’s suspected for years that a monster lives in there. We had a tacit understanding that if he stashed some bubble-wrap under a chair, I should not throw it out because it was special. So many things in the house have shaped themselves around Max in ways that I never even noticed before, and without him there’s a Max-shaped hole.
Cleo and Max, who went everywhere together – usually with the intention of tripping me up. Cleo’s having a tough time adjusting too.
Max was an elderly cat (Cleo is too, but don’t tell her I said that), and was never very strong; this was an inevitability, not a tragedy. But nevertheless it’s a sadness for me, and when I’m sad I go back to books.
I’m surrounded right now by books old and new: old-friend books that I come back to like comfy slippers; the to-be-read pile that has grown over the last couple of years into a To-Be Tower; the review books that excited me before I realised they were going to infuriate me (my next few reviews might be quite scathing!); and the reference books that prop up everything I do, sometimes literally (they make great laptop stands). And then there are the Books That Smell: my very old books that carry the smell of musty half-forgotten thoughts, and my very new books that smell of fresh print and enthusiasm. They all settle me when the world unsettles me.
I never did get around to doing my own Comfort Classics interview, back when I was collecting responses from classicists and historians all over the world during lockdown. I never even figured out what I would choose as a single source that brings me comfort when times are hard. But I think I have my answer now.
Books are my comfort, and they always were. It doesn’t really matter what sort of books, either. I find just as much to fascinate me in a dictionary as I do in a novel or a picture book. I even pick up books in languages I don’t know, because I find it relaxing to decipher things from scratch.
So I’ll be disappearing into my books for a while. Hopefully when I come out, the world will look a little bit brighter, or I’ll be a bit more prepared to brighten it up myself!
Is there such a thing as too many books? I hope not!
This week from around the classical internet
Britain’s detectorist scene – The Guardian
Roman helmet handle at Corby – BBC
Mysteries of the Labyrinth exhibition – The Guardian
Villa faces destruction – The Times
Comment and opinion
Recreating a Pompeian pub menu – Atlas Obscura
Achilles and Gilgamesh – The Collector
January newsletter – Hellene School Travel
Two decades as a Classics librarian – Antigone Journal
Plato, Aristotle and the power of music – The Spectator
Lalage, a life – Lugubelinus
Anaximander and scientific thinking – The Economist
Enigmatic Roman artefact – Hyperallergic
Chatbots and heroes – Neos Kosmos
Free virtual course for schoolteachers – The British School at Athens
Posters for Classics nerds – Greek Myth Comix
4 thoughts on “Weekend Reading: What can’t be cured…”
Hello after a long absence. you may remember me as the OU Classical Studies student who broke both her arms in 2018. I just wanted to send sympathy to you after you lost your little cat. They are family are they not. I hope all is well with other members of your tribe. I am presently recovering from a heart attack!! This farming life is becoming a bit too much I think. I wanted to thank you for your fabulous support while I was studying and you will be pleased to know I am still reading my way through the classical authors I met through you and the OU.
Anyway best wishes and thanks again.
Helen (the Derbyshire shepherdess!!)
Oh, so good to hear from you, Helen – how could I possibly forget?!! So sorry to hear about the heart attack – you DEFINITELY need to start taking it easier! Lovely to hear that you’re still keeping up with Classics – that’s something that always brightens up my day!
Hello again CoraBeth Glad to see you still in the land of the living I seem to have 2 different emails for you at the OU did you get married again or just changed your name? I am resigned to continuing my research on the question of “who is a Jew” from home and have updated my original OU TMA which has grown like Topsy Will probably publish it on academia.com when completed. Keep well and lets keep in touch so I can pick your brains if needs be.
Best wishes David C
PS your library looks far more organised than mine
Hi David – great to hear from you! The OU keeps messing around with email addresses: I’m currently CoraBeth.Fraser. Sometimes external emails disappear though, so if you send me something, feel free to mark it as URGENT, and then it should get through!