A couple of days ago I was watching a show on the History Channel about Hannibal—the one with the elephants in the Alps, who camped outside the gates of Rome. I’d forgotten how compelling his story was. As a product of Catholic schools, I took a lot of Latin. Believe it or not I still find reading in Latin relaxing. I have a copy of Caesar’s Gallic Wars on the bookshelf beside my bed. I’m only short a few hours of Greek and I could have a BA in Classics. After watching the two hour show, I went to the “haven’t read pile” and selected a couple books set in Rome. They didn’t keep my interest. They were either too infused with unimportant historical detail—like reading a textbook—or too lurid like the HBO show called Rome. So, disgusted with my reading choices, and re-inspired by the idea of Hannibal and what he represented to the Romans, I did what any bored woman does. I went to complain to Mr Husband.
The conversation went a bit like this:
ME: “I don’t understand why no one can write a book that really brings the Roman Republic to life. They’re all either too academic or too lurid. I want something smart but also exciting and compelling. Something like Gabaldon mixed with Colleen McCullough mixed with Lindsay Davis but also some fluid writing like CW Gortner. And I wouldn’t mind a dash of humor too like Ruth Downie. And world-building like George RR Martin. But I don’t want a fantasy, and or a mystery or a romance. Just a really cool book that brings the Punic Wars into this century.”
HIM: “What are you talking about?”
ME: “Hannibal. I’m talking about Hannibal.”
HIM: “Silence of the Lambs Hannibal?” (Takes his eyes off the TV here.)
ME: “No. The Carthaginian one who terrorized Rome. I want a book about him.”
HIM: “So write one. You’re a writer, right?” (Eyes back on the TV.)
ME: “I can’t write that. There would be too much research involved and I’d want to get it right.”
HIM: (Powers off the TV.) “Isn’t that book on your bedside table in Latin?”
ME: “What does that have to do with anything?’
HIM: You read Latin for pleasure when you have stacks and stacks of perfectly good books in English. Doesn’t seem to me like the research would be that much of a hardship. Just start writing. See where it goes. Couldn’t hurt right?” (Walks to the kitchen to fix a sandwich.)
ME: (Following him to the kitchen.) “You really think I could write that?”
HIM: “Turn around.”
ME: (Turning my back to him.) “What is it, a spider?’
HIM: (Reading aloud SLOWLY as he runs his index finger along my back.) “If there is a book you really want to read that hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison. Right here on the T-shirt you wear all the time.” (Definite SMIRK.)
Oh, yeah. Last year’s conference T-shirt. The quote I adored. The quote that emphasizes the importance of each individual and distinct voice. The quote that pushes writers to experiment and write about people and places that interest them, inspire them, intrigue them. Like my Romans.
Why not? Why can’t I write what I want to read? Who says I can’t? (Sticking my tongue out at the world.)
See why I keep Mr Husband around? He makes things so much simpler. Who knew I would actually need someone to READ my T-shirt ALOUD to me?