Alexander the Fabulous ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) certainly made his mark on the ancient world. He lived about three-hundred-and-fifty years before Christ. He was born son of a king, one-eyed King Philip of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and a strange woman named Olympias. While both of his parents were mere mortals, he was really believed to be the son of the god Zeus.
From an early age, Alexander showed a talent for military strategy and winning battles against the enemy. When King Philip died, Alexander became king (although he had been regent before that, which is almost the same as king). While still in his teens, he set about conquering the known world. He commanded the allegiance and love of a huge army. Within ten years, he had conquered the known world. He was the first and only “king of the world,” although others have aspired to that title since then.
Alexander’s role model was Achilles from Homer’s The Iliad. He patterned his life after Achilles, right down to the lifelong boyfriend (Achille’s boyfriend was Patroklos, Alexander’s was Hephaestion). As with Achilles, Alexander was a fierce adversary in warfare and he had a talent for winning battles when the odds were against him and he went against far bigger fighting forces. He was so good that Julius Caesar is known to have wept because he knew he would never be as good as Alexander.
Alexander never lost a battle, but his constant campaigning and warfare took their toll. He always went into the battle at the front line along with is men, never hanging back to give orders. He was wounded many times, including his lung being pierced by a crossbow. He wouldn’t rest or eat or take a drink of water until his men had been taken care of; this is one of the reasons why he was so loved and respected.
He was grief-stricken at the unexpected death of his boyfriend Hephaestion. The two of them had been inseparable since Alexander was fourteen. Just eight months after Hephaestion’s death, in 323 BCE, Alexander himself died at the age of thirty-two, either from pneumonia, typhoid, malaria, or infection. His heavy use of alcohol was believed to have been a contributing factor in his early death.
Alexander the Fabulous by Michael Alvear is an entertaining, campy, not-always-serious account of the life of one of the most interesting and influential men in history. If you like your ancient history entertaining and peppered with gay jokes and snarky and funny comments, this is it. A quote from the first paragraph of chapter eight reads: “The ancient world had crow’s feet, sagging tits, and a loose box. Then Alexander gave it the kind of makeover that inspires Cher to dedicate songs to her plastic surgeons. Alexander didn’t just inject a little botox; he radically transformed the face of the earth with a unique surgical tool known as Hellenism, which spread Greek language, ideas, arts, politics, architecture, science, and philosophy to the rest of the known world. Don’t confuse Hellenism with equally important “Nellyism,” which spread Greek musical theatre, flowing robes, Doric columns, rich Corinthian leather, and floral appliques.”
Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp
Querelle ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
“The notion of murder often brings to mind the notion of sailors and the sea.” This is the opening sentence of the novel Querelle by French author Jean Genet (1910-1986). Querelle (also known as Querelle de Brest) was written in 1945 and published anonymously in 1947. It was controversial for the 1940s (thus the anonymous publication), involving, as it does, homosexuality, murder, romantic obsession and prostitution.
Georges Querelle is a young, muscular, good-looking French sailor, in the French seaport town of Brest where the action of the novel takes place. His good looks make him a sort of magnet for almost anyone who sees him. His being a sailor and moving around from place to place makes him able to escape detection for the murders and thefts he commits. He has a look-alike brother, Robert, who is a gigolo in the local brothel in Brest called La Feria. There is this persistent theme running throughout the novel of the two brothers, Querelle and Robert, being so much alike that the love they have for each other is self-love, and the two brothers are, in fact, one and the same person.
The only female character in the book is Madame Lysiane. She is the madame of the Brest brothel, La Feria; Robert, Querelle’s brother, is her lover. Madame Lysiane is married to the owner of the brothel, whose name is Nono. Nono likes to roll dice with the young sailors who frequent his establishment. If Nono wins the throw of the dice, he takes the sailor into the back room and has sex with him. In this way, Querelle becomes Nono’s lover.
Lieutenant Seblon is an officer on the ship that Querelle serves on. He keeps to himself as much as he can and confides to his diary how much he loves, and lusts after, Querelle. Querelle figures out that Lieutenant Seblon loves him and, with this knowledge, exercises a sort of control over him. Lieutenant Seblon imagines scenes in which he and Querelle are in love and live together always.
Gilbert Turko is a young mason in Brest and an acquaintance of Querelle’s. He murders a coworker who taunts him and flees to an abandoned prison. Querelle helps him by bringing him food and encouraging him. In the meantime, Querelle has murdered a fellow sailor and left his body in the weeds to be found later. Querelle is able to make it appear that Gilbert Turko murdered the sailor that Querelle himself murdered, since Gilbert Turko is already known to have murdered a coworker. Querelle helps Gilbert Turko to get away by train but notifies police where he can be found before the train pulls out of the station.
Querelle is a walk on the wild side, a dark excursion down a fog-enshrouded alleyway. There’s nothing romantic about it, or charming or uplifting; it’s the dark side of human nature. Querelle might be thought of an agent of the devil with the face of an angel and the body of a god. People are drawn to him for his beauty, often at their own peril. He’s pretty poison. He has no equal in twentieth century literature.
Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp