Blog really is back.
The following is another in an occasional series and a book I finished in early January. Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth crackles with intrigue. In fact the subtitle should have been “a mystery in three acts” rather than The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code.
Fox presents Arthur Evans, the slap-dash amateur who discovers tablets on the island of Crete written in the ancient language Linear B; Alice Kober, the dogged scholar, constrained by time, money, and then ill health, who comes within a hair’s breadth of solving the riddle; and Michael Ventris, the brash, driven architect who solves the mystery.
On the whole, Fox sustains the narrative and offers a grand picture of Minoan life. She does on occasion get deep into the weeds of “known knowns” and “unknown unknowns” with multiple grids and linguistic juggling. There isn’t enough of meandering to detract from the way through the labyrinth, though.
Linear B lacked the Rosetta Stone that helped scholars translate Egyptian hieroglyphics. It crossed my academic path briefly during a course in ancient Greek, and the story is even better than I remember.
There are multiple layers of intrigue here besides cracking the code. The ending, though, is a letdown because of the content of the tablets and because the “mystery” surrounding Ventris’s death really isn’t. In the end, though, The Riddle creates a thought-provoking image of a world that disappeared from collective consciousness.
To my friends – thank you for your loving concern. I compiled these entries in mid-December, and things are better, though not one hundred percent. This one came from December 19 and 21.
- I’m in a place where concentration has become a problem.
- Will I decorate? Under duress.
- Next day: I’ll keep on writing here as long as I need to climb out of the abyss. Concentration is crawling back, but I still lie paralyzed even with an early bedtime.
- Crawling through a few chores, a little research, some practical stuff.
- Walks help, but the sun has been in hiding or half concealed so I don’t get the benefit of full rays – which gave a grand total of UVF of 1 today.
- Feeling worse in some ways, better than others.
- So if I were blogging what would it be? Political idiocy? No. The latest terrorist stuff? No. Maybe an entry on Tim Seldes, who represented Mother’s works for years and continued to represent us both until he sold Russell & Volkening. The obituary was suitably laudatory, but without the caption I would never have recognized him.
- Buds on the magnolia have joined Cromwell’s blooming forsythia. Scary.
I started composing this in mid-December to explain to myself why I stopped writing.
- emotional exhaustion and just exhaustion. It’s all I can do to get up, which is later and later each day. Writing in the journal helps and is something I do anticipate, once I’m over the pain of actually getting out of bed. And it seems to be enough at this point. Beyond that, life is just mechanical. Lost interest in my current research project. What’s left? ‘
- Trying to take a walk, do laundry, avoid stressful thoughts that have me spiraling down some black hole.
- Consumed by reading and responding to email makes for a loathsome time.
- Avoid thinking about people with serious illnesses.
- Try to celebrate the good things. A big donation to the James Family docu fund. The dry ice tucked into the corner of the plate of sashimi. The shock of seeing forsythia in bloom in Cromwell.
- Aim to live the advice that Chaplin Dennis McCann posted: “Do not let other people’s actions destroy your inner peace.” My inner peace has gone utterly missing. Worse, the usual books and Sudoku hold little appeal.
That was day one of my struggle to sort things out.
The Community Foundation of Middlesex County has put the James Family documentary on the front page of the Fall 2015 newsletter.
What a thrill that the good people of the Foundation are helping with this project.