What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers

March 25, 2010

Siún Carden is completing her PhD dissertation on Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter at Queen’s University Belfast. “I am rereading City of Quarters: Urban Villages in the Contemporary City (Ashgate, 2004), edited by David Bell and Mark Jayne. The editors’ analysis of quartering as the ‘corralling of difference’ insightfully ties together these diverse essays, but my favourite quote is from the Situationist International artists, who suggested quartering the city based on mood: ‘Bizarre Quarter’, ‘Happy Quarter’, ‘Noble Quarter’ and ‘Tragic Quarter’ – a wonderful thought.”

Ivor Gaber, professor of media and politics, University of Bedfordshire, and professor of political reporting, City University London, is reading Lance Price’s Where Power Lies: Prime Ministers v The Media (Simon and Schuster, 2010). “A BBC journalist turned No 10 spin-meister, Price offers a fascinating account of the battles between Downing Street and Fleet Street from David Lloyd George onwards. It’s packed with historical interest and his own ‘what the butler spun’ tales. Recruited by Tony Blair, Price is no fan of Gordon Brown, but does his best to suppress his tribal antipathy (and sometimes succeeds).”

A.?W. Purdue, visiting professor in modern history, Northumbria University, is rereading Anthony Hope’s 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda (Penguin, 2007). “A recent viewing of the magnificent 1937 film starring Ronald Colman and Douglas Fairbanks Jr made me revisit the book. I tell myself I’m reading it because it was loosely inspired by Prince Alexander Batten­berg’s brief reign over Bulgaria and is an interesting example of late-Victorian popular fiction, giving us a British and romanticised impression of the Balkans – but really I just like Ruritania.”

Robert A. Segal, sixth-century chair in religious studies, University of Aberdeen, is reading Harry R. Lewis’ Excellence without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education (Perseus Books, 2005). “A former dean of Harvard College bemoans its transformation from an old-fashioned exemplar of the liberal arts into a consumer-directed, money-making machine. Writing before Harvard’s endowment crashed, Lewis enjoys the luxury of focusing on values rather than budgets. His target is former Harvard president Larry Summers, who removed him as dean.”

Judith Weingarten, a member of the British School at Athens, is reading John E. Hill’s Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes During the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE (BookSurge, 2009). “This is my kind of book: 60 pages of text (‘The Chronicle of the Western Regions’ chapter in the Hou Hanshu, in Chinese and English) and 600 pages of notes. My fascination with Zenobia and Palmyra easily spills over to the Silk Road: here, I watch the caravans marching from the east, as through the other end of the telescope. Hill’s dissection of China’s ‘Western Regions’ gives flesh to recent dis­cov­er­ies of an East Asian man buried in Roman Italy, and a West­ern man’s bones in a 2,000-year-old Xiongnu tomb in Mongolia.”

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