Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Mount Auburn Cemetery

Last night, at long last, I finished reading The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian Fagan (see entry for April 18). The effect of climate on the rise and fall of civilizations has always fascinated me, and I learned more about what recent archaeology and technology has concluded about past climates over the centuries. If there was a major conclusion, it was that periods of prolonged drought, say ten or more years, have destroyed more Western civilizations than any other climactic event. The interesting thing, too, was that vibrant, apparently healthy, advanced civilizations fell as hard, if not harder, than those less advanced. The governments of Sumer, the Maya, the Egyptians, and many more could not hold together after a number of years of unrelieved drought. People went hungry and abandoned the cities and villages, or they starved and died of disease and malnutrition. End of story.

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway held me enthralled a few nights ago. Of all the Hemingway I have read, somehow or other I missed this remarkable story. My mouth was agape through the entire reading. I was there at their camp near the broken-down truck in Africa. I was mesmerized by how tightly controlled the whole story was--the descriptions, the dialogue, the interior or emotional inner landscape of the protagonist. Positively spine-tingling.


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