23 February 2006

As I recently explained to a bewildered dinner companion (who was impressed, I think, by my plan to read the entire Bible this year), I read a lot. Currently, my subway reading is Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or at least as much as I can comfortably hold while standing up on the D train. (This amounts to about half a volume, bisected and rebound by myself.) Gibbon's wonderful, and extraordinarily funny. Everyone has a cherished example of Gibbon's incredibly rarified sense of humor, but here's my favorite, from a footnote in chapter XI:
Apollonius of Tyana was born about the same time as Jesus Christ. His life (that of the former) is related in so fabulous a manner by his disciples, that we are at a loss to discover whether he was a sage, an impostor, or a fanatic.
The dry, parenthetical "that of the former" is pure Gibbon. I love it.

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