White Wine for Men

It is a pity there’s no reason to believe King Arthur actually existed. True, there was a sixth-century monk called Gildas The Wise who penned a wordy jeremiad that mentions a battle at a place called Mount Badon where the Celtic remnant of Roman Britain stemmed the tsunami of Anglo-Saxon invasion. It is also true […]

Ripeness Is All

We all, they say, have one book in us. God knows what mine would be. How about Good Wine Needs No Bush: Political Maunderings of an Expatriate Oenophile? Or perhaps Latin Love in a Cold Climate: Memories of a Minnesota Classicist. These are merely titles in the mind. More intriguing are authors who produce one […]

Strong, Rugged, Somewhat Sweet

On any list of the smaller enormities of modern life, other people’s Christmas circular letters ought to loom large. It is not the information itself that is so rebarbative. In the great scheme of things, knowing about the family’s new job/house/car/place at the lake is no more or less annoying than reading that Junior has […]

California Dreaming

Last spring brought a nasty shock. I was walking down a leafy side street off Como Avenue, hoping to admire in passing the jolly gingerbread woodwork around the eaves of the tumbledown duplex where my POSSLQ and I shared our first Minnesota home. The place was in pretty poor nick when we rented it twenty […]

Something for the Weekend

A prophet is not without honor, save in her own country and among her own people. One of life’s perennial puzzles is why people in the United States do not seem to read the wonderful novels of Alison Lurie, the sharp-eyed rhapsode of Ithaca, New York. Every good paperback emporium in England stocks Alison Lurie; […]

Famous, but not a Grouse

A colleague likes to talk about the Ivy League football games he went to as a graduate student at Harvard. Apparently they did not sing the Tom Lehrer Harvard fight song (“Wouldn’t it be peachy if we won the game …”); in fact, the crowd’s invective sounds as though it was scarcely more subtle than […]

Pinot Noir for the Masses

Archaeologists have all the fun. Mere historians spend their summers sweating over hot computers while those on expeditions get fresh air and exercise, often in agreeable places. I have just heard from a student who is spending great swaths of his summer making a new map of the Boundary Waters. There are less pleasant ways […]

Liquid Incense

I must say I have never understood what the Playboy bunnies saw in Dr. Kissinger. Perhaps they’re professionally equipped to detect charm and wit where mere men miss it. Who knows, the long fluffy ears may contain hidden sensors programmed to relay subtle messages to secondary brains located in the bunnies’ gluteal powder puffs, which, […]

Fresh Pink Innocence

End-of-term gifts from one’s pupils are a recurrent pleasure of professorial life. Like the boarding-school boy who thanked the aunt for the bottle of cherries pickled in brandy, one enjoys them not only for themselves but also for the spirit in which they are given. Only once have I been given an apple (and then […]

Echoes of the Empire

I shall spend a lot of this summer reading Polybius. The rise and fall of empires is in the air, and Polybius is the most coherent historian of the rise of Rome—not least because he was a Greek and smart. When Polybius describes how the Roman general Titus Flaminius accomplished his mission in the Second […]