Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Broke His Neck

Book Review
Title: The Silver Chalice
Author: Thomas B. Costain

I picked up, for 50 cents, from the "ugly book sale" at a nearby public library, an old copy of Thomas B. Costain's book, entitled The Silver Chalice, published back in 1952. I vaguely remembered seeing long ago the movie version, starring the very young Paul Newman in the role of Basil (an appearance which Newman is now embarrassed about). However, the only thing I could recollect about the movie was the spectacular yet disappointing belly-flop into the pavement which was done by the villainous Simon Magus, from a great height for entertainment of Rome and Emperor Nero. Simon had been boasting of his magical ability to fly, so he was put to a test. Out of curiosity mostly, I picked up Costain's book — it was cheap anyway — and started to read it.

I only got about half-way through before I conked out. The worst part was that it was a rather boring book. The language was silly and stilted. And the main character, Basil, was completely uninteresting. Of course, I never expected the book to be historically accurate, which it wasn't. Later, I might try to pick up where I left off as a sort of personal challenge, just so I can say I had read it all.

However, let me point out what was said in chapter 31, at the end of section 3. After seeing Simon the Magician do his belly-flop, Gaius Petronius (who probably wrote the Satyricon) turned to Caesar Nero and said, "He has broken his neck most thoroughly … And most artistically." So I guess he gave Simon a high score there. Nevertheless, the emperor Nero was not pleased with the performance.