Friday, July 13, 2007

What is the Greek term for being torn limb from limb?

Who's asking: Matt Prager, Brooklyn, NY

Not only do I have friends with whom questions like this come up in conversation, but I have friends who can actually remember the term before I get a chance to look it up -- as Matt did. The word is sparagmos, a Dionysian ritual in which a goat or other living animal -- or even a human -- would be killed by tearing its limbs off. Sometimes sparagmos would be followed by omophagia, the eating of freshly-killed raw flesh. Those Dionysians knew how to party.

In Brooklyn this morning, about to wander into Manhattan in search of people who'll hang out with me. I can call it networking, but if I'm honest it'll be a mixture of playing hooky and tourism. Even freelancers get a day off once in a while.

What I Read This Week

Stephen L. Carter, New England White. I got to interview Professor Carter for a Mystery Bookstore podcast earlier this week (it should be posted sometime over the weekend), and what a pleasure that was. Although I tend more and more to avoid long books because I'm afraid to commit that much time and be disappointed, I long for that experience of reading a really good long book, one that takes you out of yourself to another universe. This is one of those books. The shooting death of a controversial black economics professor is declared an unsolved robbery too quickly, and Julia Carlyle, the wife of the university's president (and the victim's ex-lover) becomes obsessed with digging up the truth. Carter serves as Edith Wharton to African America's upper class, showing us a society that exists not only separate from but above what his characters call "the paler nation."

Kevin Wignall, Who is Conrad Hirst? This much-anticipated (by me) novel, just over 200 pages long, felt like a shot of iced vodka after the banquet of New England White. Conrad Hirst, after spending 10 years as a hitman for a German mobster, decides to reclaim his life -- but soon discovers that almost nothing he thought he knew about himself is true. Who is Conrad Hirst?, in its own way, is just as old-fashioned a book as New England White -- wildly romantic, desperately sad -- but feels brisk and fresh, too. It'll be out in November.


Mystery Dawg said...

I can't wait to read Kevin's new book. Sounds like a real winner. Too bad his books are not published in the UK.

As for Carter, the man is a pure pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read Conrad Hirst! Serious eny here.