I'm still barely mid-way through Mary Beard's SPQR. It's definitely a door-stopper, and an absorbing read that does not compromise on its scholarship. Life however, made it difficult to sit down with a good door every day. Okay, I also have to admit that my habit of reading several books at a time makes it hard to focus on big books like SPQR.
Saw the feature on Mary Beard yesterday, on The Guardian. She seems to me the sort of professor that would intimidate me back in the university - outspoken and takes no bullshit. She's something of a celebrity academic now, although she didn't ease into the position. Rather, the story of how she came to be on TV is quite interesting:
“It was [then BBC executive] Janice Hadlow who convinced me, basically on a feminist ticket. I thought it would be a waste of time, and she said: ‘You’re one of the people who says that television documentaries are presented by craggy old men, and now I’m offering you a documentary and you don’t want to do it? Money where mouth is, dear.’”
I respect a woman who has enough self-awareness to realize she has to stand by her words. Also, a good reminder to all women who complain that media is dominated by the male voice - all the more reason we have to step up and speak up. Loudly. Mary Beard isn't your typical glamour queen in front of the TV, but this makes her all the more endearing to me. She's intelligent, and she knows her worth, and really, getting dressed up to impress people in front of the camera is just not something she's interested in. She gets her fair share of trolls - seems like the era of social media just means we get more nasty along the way. Yet, she stands up to them. Mary Beard is the kind of woman you dream your daughters grow up to be, if they are intelligent and hardworking enough.
I love that she calls out the bullshit. She's spent her life among the classics, and she knows the hypocrisy of it - that it's useful as a rhetoric for many, but the same people who decry the destruction of art and culture wouldn't pay two cents worth to preserve it:
“I think the other thing that has bothered me about Palmyra: in some ways, everybody’s got a right to speak, but there’s an awful lot of commentating about its importance and wonder by people who, until Isis took over, had no clue what it was and would probably, if asked to provide some government money to do archeological research, have said that it was a complete waste of money.”
Fan girl moment is over. Time to continue reading SPQR. The paperback is out, which makes me wonder if I should continue with my hardcover from the library, or just get a copy of the paperback to highlight and flag with Post Its.