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Literary I, Claudius by Robert Graves
#1  sun surfer 03-16-2020, 04:09 PM
'Into the 'autobiography' of Clau-Clau-Claudius, the pitiful stammerer who was destined to become Emperor in spite of himself, Graves packs the everlasting intrigues, the depravity, the bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, soon to culminate in the deified insanity of Caligula.'

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There are two phases of discussion. The first begins immediately and may contain conversations about anything pre-completion of the selection including reading progress, section thoughts, outside info, etc. The second begins on the 1st and also includes anything post-completion. These are recommended to help us discuss things in a similar timeframe but anyone can discuss any part or aspect at any time.


This is the MR Literary Club selection for March 2020. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!


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#2  sun surfer 03-21-2020, 10:02 PM
I've begun the audiobook and am closing in on two hours in. I am enjoying it so far though it feels like it's still on the prologue (technically I think I'm on chapter 4). The book begins with what seems like will be a quick summary of events before the book's story, but I feel like I'm still in that.

I think it's mainly because first of all Claudius himself is nowhere to be seen yet aside from the very first flash-forward prophecy, and second of all because there has been no showing of events yet, no dialogue etc., only telling, still in a summarising fashion. There is the general advice with writing to 'show, not tell', which I think can be a little reductive, especially since everyone in criticism seems to take that advice as a rule and yet so many famous, classic and/or popular books (even literary ones) are chock full of sections or pieces of 'telling' rather than 'showing'. But really there must be a limit, and I'm hoping this book gets to the showing soon.
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#3  sun surfer 03-22-2020, 04:07 PM
One other thing I noticed in the very beginning was that Claudius predicts this book, with him being the 'author' during his lifetime, may be uncovered in about 1900 years. I thought that was a little too on the nose.
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#4  Bookworm_Girl 03-23-2020, 01:27 AM
I plan to start the book this week and then alternate between this book and finishing Doctor Zhivago.

Now that I have transitioned to work from home t is affecting my reading since I do so many audiobooks during my commute. And my normal exercise time when I listen to audiobooks has also become shared exercise time with my husband during which he actually expects me to talk to him and not have earbuds in!
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#5  sun surfer 03-23-2020, 12:24 PM
Quote Bookworm_Girl
And my normal exercise time when I listen to audiobooks has also become shared exercise time with my husband during which he actually expects me to talk to him and not have earbuds in!
The nerve!
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#6  sun surfer 03-24-2020, 02:44 PM
I'm over five hours into it now and really enjoying it. It's still very anecdotal, flitting from separate scene/mini-story to separate scene/mini-story, but Claudius the character has now entered the chat and there are now scenes with dialogue and not just telling us what happened. Also, while it's jumping all around to little things that happened here and there among the nobles, it's generally related in some way to a few main characters one way or another and so building a world even if from anecdotes presently instead of a more straightforward story or plot.

It's all amusing and I wonder what parts of it are recorded as true and what parts Graves just made up. The anecdotal nature is making me think he took a bunch of historical fragments and built scenes around those, although some parts I think may have been partially made up to suit Claudius being the central character, for instance...

Spoiler Warning below






When Posthumous (and what a terrible name! was that really this person's name?) bursts into Claudius' room after momentarily escaping from being exiled to tell Claudius all what happened before being recaptured.

Nevertheless, it is written in a way that's enjoyable to read, and I'm not caught up on it needing to be so factual; it's more that I'm just curious what parts are and what parts aren't.
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#7  Bookworm_Girl 03-29-2020, 10:10 PM
I just started reading the book this weekend. My reading activity has drastically slowed when I thought it would go up staying at home. It seems I am spending too much time reading the news instead of books. I need to just put the news down because for the most part I'm not actually reading anything new!

So far the book is good. The style is very straight-forward such that it makes the history easy to understand and remembered. I'm glad he decided to use modernized names and geographical locations to make it easier to follow.
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#8  BenG 04-10-2020, 06:50 PM
Sun surfer, Agrippa Postumus was Claudius' uncle. His father Agrippa died before he was born so he was a posthumous son.
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#9  Bookworm_Girl 04-10-2020, 11:21 PM
The family tree with the marriages/divorces and adoptions is super complex! No wonder Claudius makes a joking statement about that in the book.

I am wondering how much is based on factual history versus anecdotal or made up as well.
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#10  BenG 04-11-2020, 05:10 PM
Quote Bookworm_Girl
The family tree with the marriages/divorces and adoptions is super complex! No wonder Claudius makes a joking statement about that in the book.

I am wondering how much is based on factual history versus anecdotal or made up as well.
I've heard it was accurate as far as people and dates and events. Some of the motivations and secret acts are less certain though there are ancient sources (or rumors) for those too.

EDIT: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-23455774
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