The People of Our Past

Tucked in among the weighty proclamations issued by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 is the delightful gem of Canon 16, which in part prohibits clerics from attending “the performances of mimics and buffoons” or wearing “curiously sewed together gloves.” If they could be transported to the 21st century, the Council attendees would surely be appalled to see that the performances of mimics and buffoons are nearly the sum total of our contemporary culture, but what a relief it would be to note … [Read More...]

On language

Please Be Kind to Idiots, for I Am an Idiot

I suffer the twin curses of the autodidact: patchy, unorganized knowledge and the great gnawing fear that everyone else is comfortably in possession of some Big Idea whose very existence has thus far eluded me. Given that I was spelunking my way through Plato’s Timaeus at the time, I was … [Read More...]

Random amusements

Best Footnote Ever

After 30 years as a professional writer in various contexts, always endeavoring to make life easier for readers, I admit to a devilish little laugh courtesy of the British science writer Jim Baggott. On page 37 of A Beginner's Guide to Reality, he provides a long list of things that have been used … [Read More...]

Half-buried treasures

The Art of Invective: Ovid’s “Ibis”

Nikita Khrushchev: “We will bury you!” Dirty Harry Callahan: “Go ahead. Make my day.” Mike Tyson: “I’m gonna gut you like a fish.” Oh, boo hoo. You want to threaten somebody? Do it properly: While Thracians fight with bows, Iazyges with spears, while the Ganges runs warm, and Danube cold: while mountains produce oaks, and […]

This journey

Visiting Historical Religious Sites: Two Gentle Pleas

I hesitate to post this article because anyone who is interested enough in history to visit a website devoted to historical fiction probably doesn't need to hear this message. You are sensitive to the debt of gratitude we have to those who came before us and are therefore inclined in general to be … [Read More...]

Learning from my betters

A Right and Good Way to Think About One’s Writing

The magnificently named Augustus John Cuthbert Hare opened the preface of his 1887 guidebook Paris with the following statement: A better book than this might easily have been published, but no one else has tried to write anything of the kind, and I have done my best. I don’t know if I have ever … [Read More...]


Memory Palaces: Storing an Entire Library in Your Head

Sometimes you get lucky. One of the themes of The Geometry of Vengeance is the nature and purpose of truth. Can the truth or a truth ever be found, and why should it be pursued? Is truth an end or a means, an ideal or a weapon? This theme is animated by characters from the […]

Looking into the past

Moissac: Abbaye Saint Pierre

The cloister of the abbey Saint Pierre in Moissac, about an hour north of Toulouse, is a Romanesque gem. Given its location off the usual tourist paths, I imagine Moissac doesn’t get a high volume of visitors, which would be a shame. In fact, I had the place to myself for quite a while, until […]