Cranky Carcopino

The above is from Jérôme Carcopino's great book about daily life in ancient Rome. This is the concluding paragraph from a section about the fad for recitations, public readings and building auditoria during the Empire. I think he goes a little overboard with the last sentence, but I do think he strikes a strong note (writing in 1940, about the 1st Century) for our times; vis. publishing electronically and shouting online. After detailing the copious noise of Rome, I think his depiction of people badgering for audience and attention has a kind of neat historical circularity about it, something to remember when we talk about the wonders of new technology, blogging, Twitter etc.


  1. It's semi-automatic to sympathize with the sentiment but once someone sets theselves up as a defender of "good writing" there's no end to it. Put another way, these are the people keeping Speegle out of grad school.

  2. Like you, I felt the last line was overkill, however having worked in photography myself, I have a sense as to where he's coming from. In photography the easy access to digital cameras (professional capable DSLRs particularly) seemed to have encouraged many people to class themselves as photographers. There seemed to be another would-be professional photographer on every street corner.

    Writing these days may not seem so in-vogue, as it is relatively hard work compared to some other forms of expression, but in a way this situation is rather similar to what we see with Facebook-statuses, Blogs, Twitter feeds, and News Limited newspapers.

  3. True - but maybe a better way will present itself to Speegle in turn... I worry about postgrad writing courses - I think they foster a bubble sense of literature where everyone co-blurbs, even the teacher, and there's not enough study of great writing to aspire to, not enough grind over the good stuff. That's a suspicion, at most, alas...

    But yes Scott - when something is free and all too accessible - where's the hunger for real craft and dedication if everything's watered down to the Average...? Wedding photography a case in point :-)

    In many ways I believe int he freedoms inaugurated by the internet, but increasingly I see that the real barriers are based on quality more and more. Great work now has to be that much greater to stand out, be noticed. The rest is leveraged for some market-friendly reason or other. Which feeds into people's suspicion of everything that isn't hyped in some way.

    Talent... talent... and the serious work that goes into it.

    The cynicism goes on, but I'm trying to ignore it!


Nice comments are welcome!