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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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Baxter, John: A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict

  Amazon  

3 stars

In his memoir A Pound of Paper, novelist and film biographer John Baxter meanders through the story of his life-long obsession with books and book collecting: from his precocious childhood in the Australian hinterland, where he devoured the science fiction magazines that were piled in a friend's garage, through years spent hunting Graham Greene first editions, to his Parisian penthouse in the present, in a building whose stairwell was once splattered with F. Scott Fitzgerald's vomit. Reading the book is akin to the experience of overhearing the eclectic chatter of a cocktail party. There is a lot of talk about people and places and books and films one has never heard of: my one complaint about Baxter's book is that he spends too much time mentioning publishers or book sellers that can mean nothing to the average reader (though book collectors will doubtless relish the detail). But interspersed among the forgettable bits are some delightful passages that any neophyte reader can enjoy--Baxter's description of the eccentricities of movie theaters in the small-town Australia of his youth, or of book browsing in Parisian librairies, an activity quite unlike shopping in English or American bookshops:

"The aristocratic attitude to bookselling meant that whole areas of Anglo-Saxon book-dealing expertise simply didn't apply. In visiting a librairie, you were paying a social call and admiring a collection. You were expected to walk appreciatively along the shelves, taking down books at random, admiring the bindings, rubbing a hand over the worn morocco, perhaps reading a few pages, nodding at a well-turned phrase, even smiling. Browsing, yes, but not as we know it."

There is, too, for those interested in flayed humans, a catalogue of anthropodermically-bound books, and also a story about a certain Bea Miles--"smelly, dumpy but charismatic,"-- that is worthy of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair: she "roamed Sydney, wearing a hand-lettered cardboard sign offering to recite Shakespeare for a shilling a time." A Pound of Paper has many such anecdotes to offer readers.

In the end, one does not leave Baxter's book feeling that one knows the author particularly well--he does not offer readers an intimate entree into his life. But one does leave the cocktail party entertained, for the most part, by the chatter.

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