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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:

  

« Harris, Sam: Letter to a Christian Nation | Main | Fasman, Jon: The Geographer's Library »

Caudron, Shari: Who Are You People?

  

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Barricade Books © 2006, 288 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

Having dabbled in innumerable activities over the years--photography, Buddhism, belly dancing, golf and gardening--never settling on any one thing for very long, author Shari Caudron began to wonder, she tells us, what so many other people had that she didn't: why is it that some people are so passionate in their hobbies, sacrificing time and money and occasionally marriages in their fanaticism? Caudron logged more than 25,000 miles over three years trying to answer that question, exploring the various worlds of obsessive hobbyists, from a convention of Barbie doll collectors in Denver to pigeon racers in Brooklyn to storm chasers speeding across the Midwest in a mad hunt for tornadoes. She attended the World Boardgaming Championship in Baltimore, the Mayberry Days Festival in North Carolina, a Josh Groban concert in San Antonio. Who are You People? is the very readable, entertaining fruit of Caudron's travels.

What is it about Josh Groban that can make middle-aged women act like teenagers squealing over a David Cassidy album cover?Caudron entered into her project a cynic, and readers too are likely to shake their heads in wonderment at some of the people the author found in her travels. How can a grown woman "lose herself for hours each night dressing and redressing her dolls"? What is it about Josh Groban that can make middle-aged women act like teenagers squealing over a David Cassidy album cover? Most disturbingly, what madness would prompt a man (one of the "furries" whose unusual interest in anthropomorphized animals Caudron considers in chapter ten) to have his face rendered more cat-like through repeated surgical procedures? But Caudron emerged from the project with a greater understanding of her subjects' obsessive interests and of hobbydom generally: how people who don't fit into society's more popular niches can find community through their shared interests with other misfits; how an increase in leisure time and disposable income in the 20th century led naturally to both being spent increasingly on hobbies; how the internet has been instrumental in bringing together people with obscure interests; how people with vastly different backgrounds, bonded over some unusual hobby, can act as a support group. Caudron finds that while people may be participating less than their parents' generation did in traditional organizations--the school board and the Rotary Club, for example--subcultures formed around hobbies are thriving, a development which Caudron sees as cause for celebration:

"When born-again Christians and leather-leashed Goths come together at the same party, when middle-aged women and gum-snapping teenagers gossip online about the same celebrities, when retired auto workers and international money managers play the same board games, well, to me, that can't help but breed the kind of understanding, acceptance, and community that's always been the promise, if not reality, of America."

Caudron's conclusions may not be earth-shattering, but they are interesting enough, and Caudron herself turns out to be a likeable escort through some of America's weirder pastimes. Her book is breezy and well-written and appeals in the same way that Susan Orlean's essays and books do: both authors offer a look at lives lived differently than our own, though Orlean usually focuses on individuals while Caudron's attention is focused more broadly. Caudron portrays her travels as being part of a quest for insight into her own character, and she structures the book around this path of self-discovery. My one complaint about the book is that this conceit sometimes seems forced. Her own alleged failure of passion may indeed have planted the seed in Caudron's head, but surely she persevered in the project because she realized that the idea she'd come up with--to infiltrate the lairs of obsessive hobbyists and remark on what she found there--would make for a whomping good book.

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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/).

Comments

1.

I think I'll look for this one. I find the topic and the review intriquing.

2.

I'm glad to hear it! She's got a blog connected with her site over at sharicaudron.com too, if you're interested. I have a very difficult time not writing her name as cauldron.




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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.