I am writing to you now to suggest some books you may enjoy reading during the holidays. You may find the stories good background for the City course that you are enrolled this winter. These are all 'short stories' and each does relate to one or more of the themes of the course. They are not required, rather, they are stories that you can read on a lazy winter afternoon as you sit by the fireā€¦


In respect to Classical Athens, our first city, try 'Suppliant Women'' by Euripides. It portrays the utter ruin brought about by war and does so by focusing not only on the suffering of women and children of the defeated and also on the demoralizing effect war can have on on the victors. The play was written during the Peloponnesian War. Parallels to the modern world and modern warfare will be readily apparent to you.

On the second City, Renaissance Florence, try Boccacio, Decameron. It describes how a group of Florentines left the city during the Black Death and amused themselves by telling clever stories. The first tale 'Under the rule of Pampinea' / Day One [of ten days, and the specific story is Day One, number 10 in most editions]. Master Alberto of Bologna neatly turns the tables on a lady who was intent upon making him blush for being in love with her. It is a delicious comedy with a clever twist. If you don't want to read these stories, try the movie, Boccaccio70 [available at Netflicks], the first short story [of three] features Anita Eckberg (your parents will know who she is), in sketch about "drink more milk". Admittedly these short stories have been done in modern dress, but they do capture the central themes of love, rejection, and revenge neatly and in a way that the medieval Boccaccio would have enjoyed.

On the third City, Berlin in the 20th Cent., try Christopher Isherwood, Berlin Stories. The narrator visits the 'high' and 'low' life of Berlin between the world wars, and the stories about his least favorite dinner 'lung soup' --yes indeed, soup made from lungs, is mordantly humorous. The movie, "Cabaret" was based on these stories and captures some, but not all of the themes. The stories appeared first the New Yorker magazine, one episode of which was made into a popular Broadway play, 'I am a Camera' during the 1950s, and then into the movie, 'Cabaret' which you may have already seen.