Customer Review

119 of 126 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big brush; lots of streaks, December 9, 2011
This review is from: Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History (Hardcover)
Robert Hughes' Rome is a big book, a rich book, and, sadly, a careless book. It is worth reading, if you can ignore the repetitions and the occasional outright mistake (ranging from the order of some of the Caesars to the plot of Shakespeare's King Lear). Hughes tells us that the project was pushed on him by his agent--shame on her. Hughes seems simply not to know enough to write a book about Rome from 800 BCE to today. Who would? His past work has usually been totally informed and incisive; long sections of the new Rome book are little more than medium length reviews of familiar material, punctuated, too rarely, with the brilliant, stimulating opinions and opinionatedness of the author. I suspect we are also seeing here signs of what everyone says will be more and more common (and something Amazon itself is trying to bring to pass): inadequate, or no, editing. After putting together this huge 500 page book, a no-longer-young Hughes was entitled to a first rate editor, who could easily have rescued him from the minor but constant and annoying repetitions that fill the book. Hughes deserved this careful editing; his readers deserved it too. So buy the book, read it, enjoy it (you will), but shame on lots of folks involved for bringing us a bold effort plagued with minor distractions and a few whopper outright mistakes--enough to make a careful reader mistrust what he or she is reading. A fine, opinionated author like Hughes can't afford such sloppiness.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 2, 2012 5:15:09 AM PST
thebest says:
I feel much better now -- having struggled through the first third of this book (a gift), becomming angry, frustrated, and dismissive -- I'm not alone in my judgment. Your reviewer is too kind. Does age and reputation give license to allow "sloppy", nay stupid, work under one's name to become public, accepting resulting income, and a total pass on one's scholarship? Does (as a quoted review from the Sunday Times on the cover says) "accessible" mean bad scholarship and worse writing? It's an INSULT!!!! No wonder there are no notes in this book. Most of what I have read is inaccurate drivel -- at least check your facts, man!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2012 12:09:19 PM PDT
Natasha Conn says:
Give him a break; Hughes was in a major car accident from which he never fully recovered. He still wipes the floor with pretenders like Peter Schjadehl.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2012 1:07:45 AM PDT
Ben Koerner says:
The major car accident really has nothing to do with it. Robert Hughes has become a lurid example of intelligence gone awry. His critical faculty, once so acute ("Shock of the New", "The Fatal Shore"), is now degenerate. The chances of him ever writing another great - or even good - book are very slim. Actually, there's no chance. This Amazon reviewer's summary is on the money.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2012 2:09:47 PM PDT
Robert Giles says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Mar 13, 2013 9:07:58 AM PDT
the critic says:
I, too, was surprised and annoyed by the extensive errors in the book and am strangely pleased that I'm not the only one to have noticed them. It does seems as though the text got to the point where an editor should have had it all spread out on the (virtual) table, filling in blanks, checking facts, making connections, cutting the chafe. It is disappointing, largely because Hughes has set such a high bar with his body of work. I still enjoyed the read, enticed along by the author's trademark gems of opinionated brilliance seeded throughout. I suppose that's a backhanded compliment.
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