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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.


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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
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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
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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
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Kluge, P.F.: Gone Tomorrow

  Amazon  

4.5 stars

The bulk of P.F. Kluge's Gone Tomorrow purports to be a manuscript that was found among the belongings of the late George Canaris, whose three previous books had landed him in the canon of must-read 20th century authors. Canaris became a writer in residence at a no-name Ohio college at the height of his fame, eager for a place that would give him the space to write his magnum opus, "The Beast," as he referred to it. But against all expectations Canaris stayed on at the school for more than thirty years and never published another book. His failure to come out with anything new lent him a Salinger-esque mystique, but his status slowly slipped from celebrity author on campus to beloved but has-been professor.

The manuscript Canaris left for his literary executor, Mark May, to find in his freezer isn't The Beast. It's an account of his last year at the college (2005), when he was forced out by the administration to make room for new blood. These chapters in the present time alternate with those describing his earlier years at the school, so that it becomes an account of Canaris' life and career across thirty years of teaching. This book within a book, also titled Gone Tomorrow, is preceded by a twenty-odd page introduction supplied by May, who explains the background of the manuscript and offers a precis of Canaris's career. May introduces the idea that Canaris was wont to blur the boundary between fact and fiction in his writing, so that one enters Canaris's narrative ready to question the veracity of the account. The principal question is, was Canaris in fact working on The Beast all those years, as he claims in his book? Or was he perpetrating a kind of fraud for decades and buttressing it with a final manuscript that left readers unsure of the truth?

George Canaris, dead already when Kluge's book begins, comes to life in the pages of his memoir. He is an entirely believable character whose death we come after the fact to regret. And the book offers a lovely discussion of the seasons of a life, the ephemerality of experience, the importance of memory. My one complaint is that the book should have ended with the end of Canaris's manuscript, which would have left the mysteries of The Beast and Canaris's veracity intact. Instead, the book closes with an afterword by May that neatly ties up our questions, or most of them, and in the process, I think, diminishes the impact of the book. Better to be left guessing in the end.

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