Monday, March 25, 2013


One of the great but secret pleasures in life is living with a library in the next room.

Late at night, when you finish one book and starting looking for the next, and you're not sure what you're in the mood for, you have a wonderful selection from which to choose. With a little luck, you can always find something to put you to sleep.

That is how, last night, I curled up with Miguel de Unamuno's Amor y Pedagogía, which I pulled off the shelf because I thought it was about amor y pedagogía. Not so much, as it turns out, but I found a jewel in it nonetheless. In the prologue he writes, "No sabemos que haya escritor a quien aborrezca más que a éste [Moratín], no siendo a Jenofonte. ¿Qué habrá hecho Jenofonte?

"Sí, ésta es la cuestión: ¿qué le habrá hecho Jenofonte?"

Although I'm not a classicist, I do love the idea of asking oneself, "What would Xenophon do?" Hence the title of the post.

I had found myself searching for a new book because I had unexpectedly finished the last surprising jewel I plucked off my shelves: Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon by Edward Dolnick. Good story, well researched, and supplemented by some thoughtful commentary that explorers might find interesting. I suppose that if you're an explorer, you could ask yourself, "What would Powell do?" but it doesn't have the same ring.

In between Dolnick and Unamuno, I studied a bit of matrix algebra, which was fun, but after a certain hour I find I cannot concentrate enough to fruitfully read math.

To be fair, I didn't spend the weekend in light reading or in contemplating the immortality of the crab. I spent 15 to 20 hours working this weekend, first on the permit request for this summer's fieldwork and then on a monograph I hope to send out soon. Probably not what Xenophon would have done.