Confronting the Classics
I havent actually confessed yet that I am putting together a choice selection of essays and reviews to come out next Spring from Profile -- almost certainly called Confronting the Classics (we've been through quite a lot of titles and that one seems to please the most, and to be faithful to the contents). And barring an afterword and preface and linking passages (OK a good couple of days work there, but never mind).. I've finished and pressed the button about five minutes ago.
Have a foul cold (caught on the airplane to Los Angeles, how else?) and am more knackered than I like to think... but I can sort of tick the job off. (I count ticking the job off as reaching the point where if you dropped down dead someone woud be able to finish it and still put your name on the cover).
What's amazing is that, even with something approaching a compilation, it still takes ages and ages to get done. Think of a number of weeks, then treble it.
I mean I guess you could just take the essays and publish them as they stand. But I dont think I'd be able to live with that. That's partly because when you put them all together you suddenly discover that there are tiny inconsistencies you never noticed, or that you used the same anecdote twice over (it didn't matter much when the pieces were 15 years apart, but when they are now 20 pages apart, it does). So you try trimming and exising, but as soon as a few lines have gone, you ending up having to rewrite a lot more lines...
Then again when in 2005 you said that something hadnt been discovered, then in 2006 it was... well you cant just leave it be, can you?
Overall, I'm feeling, quite happy with the rewrite. The aim has been to take readers into some of the fun and the debates and the controversies of current classical discussions... without assuming too much pre-existing knowledge (the essays range from how difficult it is to understand what Thucydides is actually saying, through what happened on the day of Julius Caesar's murder, to what Asterix is trying to tell us, with lots inbetween...Sappho, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, Roman Britain, Paddy Leigh Fermor etc ). But that's enough of an advert. Hope you'll enjoy it when it comes out.
And I wont forget the work. There's no such thing as an easy book to write, however much you think you've already written it. I remember when Simon Price and John North and I decided to write Religions of Rome. It was all going to be so easy. We'd already written a series of essays on Roman religion for the Cambridge Ancient History. All we had to do was put them together with some linking sections, and add a book of sources to illustrate the main narrative (oh yes and translate them ourselves).
Simple eh? Six years (and no major arguments) later we'd nearly finished.
Glad we persevered, mind you.