(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell Martin Levin - Essay

Martin Levin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Return with Taylor Caldwell to ancient Greece [in "Glory and the Lightning"], where characters in desperation are wont to cry: "Wine, in the name of the gods." At an Athenian dinner party, you can hear the architect Phidias say: "Ah, yes, Pericles, I am at your service. I have the sketches drawn, for the Parthenon." Puts you right into the classic picture, where the Acropolis, in its day, was a bigger provocation than the Albany Mall.

There are other social parallels, if you look for them, in the spectacle of a high but weakened civilization being overwhelmed by a determined force of hairies, the Spartans. And there are stirrings of feminism, too, even in the fifth century B.C., the heyday of the brainy courtesan, Aspasia…. A dormitory student at a school for courtesans, Aspasia confounds her math teacher, science teacher and gym teacher: ("… suddenly all was fire and shuddering transports beyond description").

After a tour of duty with a Mede satrap, whom she cures of the flux, Aspasia leaves for Athens an heiress, to start her famous school and to do her own thing. The rest is history…. The plague from which, according to the author, Aspasia's healing arts succor Pericles—at least temporarily. And the ubiquitous Spartans. All of which is enrobed in the author's familiar verbosity, which can leave you crying for wine in the name of the gods.

Martin Levin, in his review of "Glory and the Lightning," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 15, 1974, p. 14.