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

  

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Botha, Ted: Mongo: Adventures in Trash

  

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Bloomsbury © 2004, 242 pages
4 stars

Note: I read this book in part for The Sunday Salon. See this related post.

"Mongo" is a slang term--new to me--that refers to an object that has been reclaimed from the trash. According to The Cassell Dictionary of Slang, quoted at the beginning of Ted Botha's book, it's a term specific to New York, which is fitting because Botha's exploration of mongo is likewise based in New York. In each of his ten chapters Botha discusses different types of trash reclamation by profiling some of the "collectors" he's met. He writes about freegans and "canners" and artists who work with found objects, about "black baggers," about people who trade in discarded books. (I had no idea so many people were throwing away books.) He profiles a pair of friends who dig up old privies in search of antiques. He writes about men who sift through old landfill when it's dug up during construction. Unless you've thought about the subject matter before, you'll probably be very surprised by the variety of mongo that exists.

[INSET TEXT: Botha writes, for example, that "black baggers" are on the lowest rung of the dumpster diving hierarchy.] Botha's book is uneven. It includes a few too many passages in which the author rattles off long lists of items reclaimed from the trash. And it ends with an unfortunately dull chapter about a man who collects large chunks of demolished buildings. But the book is also fascinating in parts, particularly when Botha discusses the sociology of trash picking. He writes about the lifestyle of people who specialize in can collection, for example, and about the hierarchy among trash pickers. (Who knew there was a hierarchy? Who knew there was specialization?) But I would have liked more detail, both because the subject is interesting and because I was left with some questions. Botha writes, for example, that "black baggers" are on the lowest rung of the dumpster diving hierarchy. Apparently, opening up a black bag is an act of desperation, presumably because one can't be sure ahead of time what will be in it. But it's not as if most trash bags are transparent. Why are black bags singled out for demonization?

Botha's book isn't perfect, but it's worth the read. He's hit on one of those wonderful topics that's right at your feet but which only the blessedly curious think to explore. Kind of like mongo itself.

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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.