Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

The Echo of Greece, Part 2

The Echo of Greece picks up quite a bit after the first chapter. Hamilton's style is highly readable, and when she is narrating historic events and showing the connections between them, this book is great. However, whenever she falls back into talking about the "mind" of a people, the "Greek mind," the "Roman mind," the "Persian mind," the "Semitic mind," she is always extremely reductionistic. Like Thucydides, she wants to see history as a progression of ideas and universals. Unfortunately, one needs the balance of Aristotle who said that history is made up of "singulars." People make up history, and people rarely, if ever, conform to a certain "worldview" en masse. This is the same fallacy that occurs when theologians try to contrast "Greek thought" with "Hebrew thought," and lament the introduction of Greek thought into Christian theology. There were many Greek philosophies, some of which fit better with the theology of certain Jews than others. There is not one "Greek worldview" stretching from Homer to Plutarch. There is not one "Hebrew worldview" stretching from Abraham to Christ. There are certainly shared beliefs and assumptions in Yahweh worshippers from Abraham to modern Christians, but this does not mean one unified and unchanging "mind."

Overall, I enjoyed Hamilton's book whenever she was narrating history. She is a gifted writer and brings history alive with her lively combination of biography and historical narration. I had to cringe though whenever she picked up her grand narrative and tried to fit history into a pattern of conflict between Greek and Roman thought, and especially when she clumsily tried to explain Church history in terms of her "worldviews."