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Lucian's A True Story: An Intermediate Greek Reader: Greek Text with Running Vocabulary and Commentary Paperback – January 15, 2011
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About the Author
Evan Hayes is a graduate of Miami University. Stephen Nimis is a Professor of Classics at Miami University.
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Like Steadman and Helm and Byrne/Cueva before them, the first thing that Hayes/Nimis have gotten right is the font. It is straight and clear and LARGE, with ample space between the lines. It's about 50% larger than the Loeb font, and that in my mind would make this worth the price of the book. The dimensions of the book are handy, tall enough to keep the font large, but thin enough to feel good in your hand. These Amazon print on demand paperbacks do have a tendency toward curled up pages, but they are durable as far they go.
The format of this book could not be better. Like Steadman (and unlike say the JACT Readers) the vocabulary glosses and the grammatical notes are kept separate, allowing intermediate to advanced students to only use the helps they need. Steadman has his vocab on the facing page, with the grammatical notes underneath. But here both sections are under the text, which I like, since you can read the text with or without the helps in a more flowing way. The glosses are not quite as good as Steadman's in that here you are more likely to find a one word gloss, whereas Steadman provides a wider range of meanings. Sometimes the basic meaning will be found in the gloss section while the more precise meaning will be found in the grammatical section. Like Steadman, and unlike Helm, Hayes/Nimis keep their grammatical explanations very brief, which I like. They only give you what is essential to understanding the meaning, so you can get back to the text quickly. I think this is big advantage over more detailed commentaries, which tend to be many times longer than the texts they purport to explain! Hayes and Nimis are very, very complete in the help they give you, probably about as complete as Steadman's Symposium. I found only one or two things that I HAD to look up in lexicon or translation or commentary to understand. Now, the authors are helped in this by the fact that A True Story is a very simple text, much simpler than I thought. Lucian's preface is the hardest Greek of the text. After that, he affects a simple style based I think on the Odyssey. But vocab is unusual and extensive, and I would think it would be painful drudgery to look up all the words. Most of the sentences, though are short and simple.
In the preface, the authors say their commentary is almost entirely grammatical, but they do give you some historical/mythological information that helps you understand the text.
One thing I think I do not like is the short summaries in English before each section. This kind of gives the story away and kills the suspense. These are helpful of course, and they are printed in the grammatical section, not in the text, so you can ignore them on your first readings, which I did. The JACT Readers do the same thing, but in Hayes/Nimis they are easier to ignore.
This edition does something that Steadman does in his books. Interspersed throughout the text are charts, paradigms and grammatical summaries designed to help the Greek learner reenforce forms and syntax. I found these helpful, and it was nice to see that the same things that give me trouble do so for others. This book is written for the intermediate learner which is nice. There are many books for pure beginners, but Hayes/Nimis is one of the rarer ones written for more advanced Greek readers.
Hayes/Nimis tell you in their preface how to use the book (and in so doing answer the purists) and I have followed their advice. The first time through, you read the text only, trying to figure out the basic meaning. Then you glance down at a the gloss ONLY AFTER MAKING A GUESS TO YOURSELF WHAT IT MEANS. Then you read the commentary. But what I have found with these books, is that even if you can get through the text without the helps, after you have done so, it is very valuable to read the glosses. This reenforces the vocab better than everything else I have tried--flashcards, recording the words and listening to them back, posting vocab lists on the fridge.
Let me just say this to the purists. I have read some great Greek texts using these editions, Plato, Homer, Longus, and I can now read all these texts WITHOUT looking at the helps. That's the paradox of these editions. You use the helps so that you will not need them.
My review is almost over, and I have said nothing about a True Story itself. Well, the text is fun and entertaining. The Greek is better, more beautiful than I would have thought. It's easy and good Greek, a rare combination. The humor is subtle, you don't laugh outloud, but Lucian's willingness to mock Homer, and therefore Greek tradition itself, is audacious and finally admirable. The thing that Lucian takes least seriously of all is himself. If more people were like him in that, we would have less need of escapist literature like this.
As I understand it, Hayes and Nimis wrote this text because they found that Steadman's texts were helpful to students. Unlike certain academic books that go overboard with ponderous grammatical-linguistic terminology, print on demand books like this are written to actually help real people read Greek. If I ever go the moon myself, I am taking a book like this with me. Thank you Mr. Hayes and Mr. Nimis!
The first few pages gave me pause - this seemed like high-flown, high-fallutin' language, and wasn't sure I was quite ready to cope with it. But once I got past Lucian's slightly pompous 'apology' for his work, the actual story kicked off and things got a lot more promising.
This book gives you the complete, unsimplified text of what has been called the first ever Science Fiction novel. A whirlwind lifts the adventurers' ship, deposits it on the Moon, and the fun really begins. (actually, before the whirlwind there's already been a more earthly and slightly risqué adventure...)
On the same page as the text, there's very generous help with both grammar and vocabulary. This makes it possible to read (and re-read) the text without all that tedious mucking about in the depths of a lexicon, and I think it's a Good Thing.
There are also various info-boxes scattered throughout the book. I found that I could treat most of these as revision or 'reminders', but some of them contained stuff that was new to me.
I'm really pleased with the way this book works, and a dose of ancient Greek Sci-Fi has become part of my daily routine. This book is also unique in another respect - I think it's the first time I've ever laughed out loud while reading a Greek text!
I highly recommend this book to everyone who's passed the basic level of Greek, and am hugely pleased with my purchase. In fact, I've just discovered that Lucian's The Ass and On the Syrian Goddess are available in the same format, and I've just ordered them as my next readers.
PS: I've now worked through this book, and have started reading The Ass, which I think I'd recommend more highly than True Story. It's more fun (and quite a bit more risqué), and I found the Greek easier. While I enjoyed the True Story very much, I did find its second part a bit slow at times.
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The story is a breezy and readable tale.Read more