Monday, April 25, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016: In Praise of Folly

#vtReadingChallenge: Week 17
A book you have read before

In Praise of Folly
by Erasmus

Hilarious and Tedious

The first time I read this book years ago I thought it was hilariously wonderful satire about our lives as humans from the perspective of the goddess Folly. Picking it up again now, I felt like I was reading a different book. To be sure, the text is the same (I'm reading the exact copy I read previously), but I guess there's something about having three under three where I found myself rereading paragraphs sure I was missing something.

Oh, I still find parts on point, but as a whole I guess I'm just not able to mentally engage the way I was able to BC (before children).

With that in mind, a few points about this book.

1. If you don't have a good grasp on your Greek deities/legends you will be lost. If that is you, skip this book.

2. You also need to be decently familiar with the Bible to catch some of what he is saying ... and understand the context of some liberties he takes with that text from the mouth of Folly.

3. My edition (which I could not find online: Walter J. Black, 1942 printed for the Classics Club with introduction by Hendrik Willem ban Loon of Rotterdam) keeps the language Erasmus originally used. If you are not used to reading things written in an older style of English (Reformation era), skip this book or find a "updated in today's language" edition. Otherwise, you will have a difficult time tracking.

4. This second time around, I enjoyed the 91 page introduction by Hendrik more than I enjoyed the work of Erasmus. Hendrik writes like an old friend and tells you about Erasmus' life in such an easy manner. I recommend my copy of the book for that alone!

So, if you are familiar with classical and Biblical literature, and do not have problems reading works several hundred years old, you will probably enjoy this book as much as I did upon my first read years ago. If you do not have extra mental energy to devote to the work, you will probably get frustrated reading it.

I'm still glad I reread it, in spite of my frustrations. HINT: I discovered upon my reread that I still caught Erasmus' points without getting bogged down in details when I skimmed. I never encourage people to skim books, but I think it might be helpful here.

First time reading it: 5 stars
Second reading: 3 stars
Average: 4 stars (with the above qualifications)

PS - the illustrations in my edition are horrible. What a waste of ink and paper!

This review appears as part of the Reading Challenge 2016. To see other books in the challenge, click here.

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