Tuesday, December 19, 2017

176. Marius the Epicurean

Marius the Epicurean
Walter Pater
1885
Around 250 pages












I took on way too many writing projects this fall and consequently have been too swamped to get on here and update. Truth be told, I would probably have been more motivated to work on this blog if it didn't mean I would have to read Marius, which seemed like it was going to be incredibly dull...and it totally was.

This book barely has a plot, but I will do my best to stick to tradition and give a brief summary. Basically, the novel maps Marius's path to Christian martyrdom. The most significant moments of his life come from his friendships with Flavian, his childhood friend who shares his love of literature, and Cornelius, a Christian knight.

Where to begin with my gripes? Despite the fact that this story takes place in Ancient Rome, I never felt like I was actually in Ancient Rome. It actually made me pine for Ben-Hur, which had its fault but at least firmly established the setting. I understand why the novel reads like this; Pater is trying to draw parallels between his time in 1880s Britain and Marius's time. But unfortunately, this wasn't entirely successful. It just made me feel like I was reading Marius Copperfield.

I usually love books where the main character loves reading as much as I do, but I couldn't connect with Marius on any level. I suppose this is because I didn't understand most of the literary references, as classical texts aren't really my thing. I did appreciate the brief interlude where we were told the story of Cupid and Psyche, but I can hardly credit Pater for coming up with that tale.

Anyway, now that I got this book out of the way, I am eager to resume this project. Happy Holidays!

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Intended to be a trilogy, but Pater never finished the other two novels. Oh, thank goodness.

Early example of intertextuality within a novel, which is a fairly modern device.

UP NEXT: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. So here is my embarrassing literary secret: I've never read any Mark Twain. I always assumed the use of dialect would get on my nerves. I also happen to be a snob and don't read American writers very often. Hopefully he will be a pleasant surprise.