Mary Beard knows a great deal about the literature of the ancient Romans, but not very much about humor and laughter. She has written a learned tome for the classicists, appropriately published under The Joan Palevsky Imprint in Classical Literature. There is much in her new book for those already well acquainted with Catullus and Cicero, Plautus and Plutarch, Terence and Tiberius, but, sadly, the number of such potential readers is today greatly diminished, even among the educated. If the book were aimed at specialists, that would be the end of it, but it is being marketed as accessible to the general reader, which it is not, whatever her claque may claim in the British newspapers. The use of the demotic term “cracking up” in the title indicates this attempt to widen the readership.

Professor Beard’s book is deficient because she knows little about the humor of cultures other than those of Rome...

 
Popular Right Now