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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:

  

« Shawn, Allen: Wish I Could Be There | Main | Lerner, Eric: Pinkerton's Secret »

Marx, Groucho: Memoirs of a Mangy Lover

  

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Da Capo © 2002 (orig. 1963), 214 pages
3 stars

Groucho Marx's Memoirs of a Mangy Lover, originally published in 1963, is a collection of more than 25 essays loosely themed around the subject of love or, more accurately, the pursuit of sex. Groucho writes about unfaithful husbands of his acquaintance and the perks of polygamy, about a potentially amorous evening spoiled by pigeons, about an act of martyrdom that involved his courtship of the homely daughter of a Mexican cook. But there are also stories about his brothers cheating someone at cards, for example, and about the impositions of unwelcome dinner guests.

[INSET TEXT: We're not given a sense of the man behind the moustache.] Groucho doesn't open up much in these essays. We're not given a sense of the man behind the moustache. But to the extent that the author is humanized in the stories it is, well, a little strange: Groucho is such an iconic figure that I've never imagined him as flesh-and-blood human. It is surprising to think of him doing anything so banal as driving a car. The essays are interesting for this reason and because they are the product of a world that, some fifty years on, seems very foreign. Much of the book is arguably sexist, and it contains some racial references that wouldn't escape an editor's pen nowadays. More surprising are the author's casual references to trips with his brothers to brothels, as if such a thing were completely unremarkable, or his account of essentially ordering up a woman from an old acquaintance while in town:

"What I was looking for was a companion--a dazzling, pulchritudinous wench who would hang on my every word and eventually obey my every command."

The essays are interesting as social history, then, but I'm afraid they're not very funny. I did laugh once, when Groucho described getting lost in Bel Air with Clare Boothe Luce, then U.S. Ambassador to Italy. A producer at Twentieth Century-Fox Studios, out walking his dog in the middle of the night, happened upon the pair while they were standing in the bushes on a street corner trying to read a street sign:

"He surveyed us for a moment, unwilling to believe his eyes, then turned and addressed his dog. 'Spyros,' he said, 'up to now I thought I'd seen everything, but if someone had told me I would ever see the United States Ambassador to Italy and Grouch Marx standing in a bush in Bel Air at two in the morning, I just wouldn't have believed it.'"

But in that case the humor lay in the situation. When Groucho tries to be funny the jokes are corny, forced, dated:

"Millions of years ago, love ran wild on this daffy globe of ours. Men were slimy creatures resembling a louse or the fellow your wife almost married. They were called amoeba--until they got money and changed their name to The First National Bank."

Did our forbears in the sixties indeed laugh at this sort of thing? I have to believe they did: this is Groucho Marx we're talking about, after all. And maybe if Groucho were on screen delivering the same lines they would be funny. But don't expect to guffaw your way through this one. Read it for the sexism and antiquated social mores instead!

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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.

Interesting review but I think I will pass on the book.




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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.