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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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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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PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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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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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« Kersten, Jason: Journal of the Dead | Main | Dudman, Clare: One Day the Ice Will Reveal All its Dead »

Schaefer, Laura: Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor

  

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Thunder's Mouth Press © 2005, 149 pages [amazon]
3 stars

Online dating sites and craigslist.org advertisements and TV shows like Blind Date or The Love Connection are really nothing new. Personal ads have been with us for nearly 300 years. In Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor Laura Schaefer collects almost 200 examples of the genre, most dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries, and most having appeared originally in English and US publications. Schaefer divides the ads among eleven chapters by type--the self-deprecating or desperate, the poetic, the downright bizarre, and so on.

Certainly they reflect their times, young widows and widowers apparently being thick on the ground in the 19th century, and the contracting of relationships hinging very often on the quantifiable resources one could muster--whether a yearly stipend or a tractor.As with any collection of this sort, the majority of the texts selected for inclusion will probably fail to interest any given reader, and readers will differ in which of the ads included most appeal to them. But among the ho-hum here that didn't spark my interest are some true gems. For example: a 19-year-old GI writing in 1946 to ask for pen pals; the parents of a sickly 21-year-old looking to attach their daughter to some benevolent doctor; a 70-year-old, castle-owning German baron in the market for a very particular sort of 16- to 20-year-old girl; notice that a lisping, one-legged wife has run away with the parish priest; a man with a glass eye looking for a woman "who also has a glass eye or some other deformity not more severe." My own favorites in Schaefer's collection are those ads that offer a snapshot of real life, recording some small unremarkable moment long lost to memory. What can have transpired between these two on a London street, for example, to prompt such interest?

"A LADY WHO passed a Gentleman on Monday, the 17th of this month in Hart-street, Bloomsbury, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, without speaking to him, is anxious for an opportunity of seeing him again, any time after the 7th of January."
-- December 25, 1810,
The Times (London)
More than a century later, more than an ocean away, another chance encounter was memorable to at least one of the parties concerned:
"LADY WHOSE CAR ticket was refused by conductor on S. Meridian car, Friday, June 20 at 7 a.m. wishes to communicate with gentleman who witnessed the refusal. DRexel 5056."
--June 26, 1924,
Indianapolis Star
In some cases one wants desperately to know how the advertisers fared in their quests.

The personals are surely a rich source of social history. Certainly they reflect their times, young widows and widowers apparently being thick on the ground in the 19th century, and the contracting of relationships hinging very often on the quantifiable resources one could muster--whether a yearly stipend or a tractor. It is also interesting to note that the dangers inherent in forming relationships by mail, electronic or traditional, are not new, and neither is the discussion over the desirability of doing so.

Schaefer's book is a quick read, and many of her selections are excellent. There are times when I would have liked her to provide additional context for her selections. Murders committed by men placing personal ads are alluded to on two occasions, for example, and one would like very much to know more about these cases. It would also be interesting--though I realize this isn't the book Schaefer set out to write--if the author had researched what is known of the subsequent history of at least some of the advertisers featured: that elderly, castle-wielding baron must have left his mark in the record books, for example. But Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor is recommended as a quick and interesting read and as a window into what seems to be a rich vein of historical information.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.