The club has six members. Maks and I bring the cake. Beth brings drinks. Talia sets out chairs in front of the bookshop. Penelope carries the metal grill and turns the shop sign to CLOSED. Follie, the black dog, goes wild. She jumps and licks and runs in circles. Then she goes in search of an empty bookshelf to curl into. We have a joke about Follie reading all the books inside while the club congregates on the shop terrace, across from the gates to the Luxembourg Gardens. It’s really not that funny. But somehow at a gathering, it can become hysterical.
Macfarlane walks for the same reason I do: to be connected. To the landscape, yes, but also to its history. Every walk, urban or rural, follows in the footsteps of those who have trod these paths before. For Macfarlane, this adds weight to the places he writes about, allowing his observations to extend beyond personal experience and into the realms of ethnography and art.
The name Nero immediately conjures an image of a demented, olive-wreathed emperor demonically fiddling in the red glow of a burning Rome — a picture that has endured to modern times, providing irresistible fodder for plays, operas, films, even rock songs. In “Rome Is Burning: Nero and the Fire That Ended a Dynasty,” historian Anthony A. Barrett, professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia, navigates through the complex evidence surrounding the Great Fire of 64 A.D. to show that much popular perception of Nero is illusory.
There could hardly be a more provocative book title than “The Last American Hero” to examine a figure from 20th-century history. Not only might a reader wonder what the word “hero” denotes here, they may also puzzle why there can be no more heroes to follow.