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Not much to report... A quiet Sunday spent reading. Reading the Times. Today's Times. Yesterday's Times. The Times from Friday and Saturday of the first weekend in June. The Saturday Times for the weekend before that. It took a few hours. I also read the Book Review. When I was done with the orgy of journalism, I finished The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture. Andrew Keen's book is the sort of thing that I usually avoid, but as an Internaut with some pretensions to substance, I thought I'd better have a look.

I'll write more about this book later, but right now I'd like to say a word about the reading experience. On Friday, when I read about half of it, it seemed a prolonged rant with one or two ideas. I was satisfied that I could answer Mr Keen's objections to the Blogosphere, for example. But the second half of the book, which I read this afternoon, while somewhat overwrought, pointed to a lot of Internet issues that really need to be addressed. Such as piracy and illegal online gambling. The Cult of the Amateur is best regarded as an early warning, a canary in the mineshaft, a word to the wise. In order to make a splash, I suppose it has to be a bit overdone.

(I could tell that Mr Keen is British almost without opening the book. I was sure of it long before he revealed his interest in the football team Tottenham Hotspurs.)

Then back to one of the big thick books that have haunted the base of my bedside-books pile, Robin Lane Fox's The Classical World. Remember when I was reading this in April? I've reached the beginning of the sixth and final part of the book, with about a hundred pages to go. This book is full of dash and brio, and not unacquainted with snark. I may have to re-read Marguerite Yourcenar's The Memoirs of Hadrian when I'm through. And watch Gladiator again. Here I'd thought that when Comodus popped up on the arena of the Colosseum, the filmmakers had plunged into anachronism, not to mention lèse majesté. But what do you know? They hadn't. Mr Lane Fox reports a ghastly event in which the Emperor beheaded two ostriches and then brandished the one of the heads alongside his sword - a hint to the Senate, it's suggested. Writing on the transformation of the Repuglic into the Empire that Augustus pulled off, Mr Lane Fox confirms A N Wilson's immortal judgment, that Augustus was the Widmerpool of Ancient Rome.

(Oh, pooh. I just got round to checking prices on the DVD of the British TV adaptation of Powell's magnum opus. It's out of print! "Used and new" copies start at seventy-five pounds! So much for that. I have the tape of a tape of the original VHS. It's sort of watchable.)

Having delighted in Edward Luce's In Spite of the Gods, I want to read Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra. It's another fat book at the base of a pile.

On Friday, Kathleen brought home a treat. I had to close my eyes &c. A book was placed in my hands - a book with a note. I knew what the note said as soon as I saw the dust jacket. It apologized for having taken so long to get an inscribed copy of Jane Smiley's Ten Days in Hills to Kathleen, who has worked with a woman who turns out to an old pal of novelist's in California. I already have an autographed copy, one that I got when I showed up for a reading in Chelsea. The thing is, I never ask for personal inscriptions. I've been told by people who know that inscribed books are less valuable than autographed ones except in the rare case where the inscribee (that would be me) is more or less as well known as the inscriber. And while I don't collect books with a view to financial gain, I expect that someone down the road will be happier to have a signed book than one that addresses an unknown blogger. However, Jane Smiley is one of the handful of writers whom I revere as people, and "To R J - All the best," with a date about a week later than my (undated) autographed copy, has taken its place on the shelf.

Now all I have to do is get famous.


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