New Year’s Resolutions, a Literary Calendar, & a Virgil Readalong

WE RARELY KEEP OUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS.   According to The New York Times, unclear resolutions are easily broken, especially when imposed from an external base. For example, dieting is a societal expectation, especially for women, despite our assertion that it is for our health.  My own resolution? To watch my sugar intake.  What I’ve learned:  they put sugar in milk, even soy milk.  One must read all the labels.

RESOLUTIONS I’VE BROKEN.  Last year I declared it was the Year of Balzac.  What a nice idea!  But after I finished reading the Penguin editions, I turned to tatty copies of 19th-century translations by Ellen Marriage and Clara Bell.  The flaking of old paper actually hurt my hands,  so I abandoned the project.

LITERARY CALENDARThe New York Times has posted a literary calendar for 2018. The most exciting event?  Muriel Spark’s 100th birthday on Feb. 1.  I love her books, and have posted about The Ballad of Peckham Rye (here), Robinson (here), and The Finishing School (here).

THE  READALONG OF VIRGIL’S AENEID, JAN. 8- Feb. 26, at Mirabile Dictu.

Do join us.  It’s a great read.

The famous line below is one of the reasons to read the Aeneid.

…forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabat.

Translation:  “Perhaps someday we will be happy even to remember these things.”

In desperate times it is a comforting saying.

Does Aeneas believe this?  No, he does not.  He asserts it to hearten a band of Trojan refugees. Trauma lies behind them, trauma ahead.  Aeneas tells us privately that he wished he had died at Troy: his personal life ended with the fall of Troy. He is a reluctant leader, destined to found Rome.  The survivors of the Trojan war wander for years, welcome nowhere for long, not even in Italy, where the gods send them.

Is this an epic about empire, or an anti-war poem?  All interpretations are right, supported by critics, historians, or common readers. Feel free to argue about it!

Here is the schedule for January:

Jan. 8-14:  Book I

Jan. 15-21:  Books II and III (the “short version” is Book II)

Jan. 22-28:  Book IV

Jan. 29-Feb. 4:  Books V and VI (the “short version” is Book VI)

The schedule for February, including the “short version,”  will be announced later.

All the translations are very good, but if you want background, I recommend the excellent introduction, notes and glossary in the Penguin edition (Robert Fagles’s translation).

If you have questions, email me at

11 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions, a Literary Calendar, & a Virgil Readalong

  1. New Year’s Resolutions have to be doable. I have resolved never to go to an AMC movie theater again. I will try to hold to it. I do have 4 theaters in my area which I can reach which are either independent or belong to some other small chain. I have many many DVDs in my house un-watched, Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Jim downloaded many wonderful films for me, which my IT guy put in a special hard-drive for me. I just have to say “no,” to anyone who asks to go to a movie in such a movie-house. Should not be that hard as I know so few people and even fewer who might ask such a thing. I am so angered by how I am treated (it reminds me of being an an airport or airplane) i become bad company so that should help me there.

    I love the idea of reading Virgil’s Aeneid. I doubt I have the time but I will read along and pull out my book translated by Mandelbaum and an old Latin edition I have. I’m meaning to renew my Italian, another New Year’s Resolution 🙂

    As non-sequitor, in the NYRB Emily Wilson has a good review of a new Hesiod where she demonstrates (alas) that it’s very poor.



    • Yes, the commercial movie theaters are so disappointing, and there are so few movies I want to see. Wonder Woman? I hardly think so.

      The Aeneid is so great, and I will post on it only one a week. We are a small group, though I’ve had some email questions about it.

      I’m off to read Wilson on Hesiod!


  2. The quote you include in your post, “Perhaps someday …” is a bit like the reverse of one of my favorite quotes, from Cosmic Banditos by A. C. Weisbecker, “It will be interesting to see what happens next.” Both can impart bravery in the face of adversity. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned Cosmic Banditos here before.
    I don’t know if I can do the read-along, but I haven’t packed my copy of Aeneid yet. Maybe if I just leave it lying around, potential buyers of our house will be impressed by the literacy of the sellers?


    • Oh, how fun to compare such different works!
      Don’t pack your Aeneid until you read or reread Book IV first, the story of Dido’s doomed love for Aeneas. It smoulders, like a romance novel…


  3. I had a few minutes this afternoon, so I went looking for my copy of the Aeneid. Can’t find it. I must have given it away in a rash moment. I do, however, have it in my set of Harvard Classics. This is a translation by John Dryden. Do you know this translation and is it a decent one? (I do know who John Dryden was, I just don’t know if an old translation is a good one.)


  4. Pingback: Library Loot, a Century of Books and more – the [blank] garden

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