Books: Just Browsing

The Birmingham Post (England), April 22, 2000 | Go to article overview

Books: Just Browsing


Arthurian theory fuels interest

The Keys to Avalon. By Steve Bake and Scott Lloyd. (Element, pounds 18.99).

The legends of King Arthur and his knights of the round table have intrigued and sparked the imaginations of people around the world for centuries. From Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the significantly drier La Morte D'Arthur, the stories are told in print, in song, in pictures and on film.

But how much of the stories is purely fabricated myth? Numerous cultures and towns in the UK have claimed some special tie to the legendary sixth century leader: Cornwall wants to be Camelot, Winchester claims to be home to the round table.

Steve Bake and Scott Lloyd understand why people want to be a part of Arthurian legend, but, they claim, the traditional telling of the story misses the mark.

Bake and Lloyd will stand for it no more. Arthur, they argue 'conclusively,' was a heroic Welsh leader and his burial place, on the mysterious 'Isle of Avalon,' is located in a remote region of North Wales.

Their book, conclusive or otherwise, adds an interesting new angle to the pile of stories about the heroic king and will surely be a joy for any who love new, 'explosive' books about very old events.

Revolution in Time. By David Landes. (Penguin Books, pounds 12.99).

Author David Landes quotes the old proverb, 'use time, or time will use you.'

Augustine is thrown in for good measure: 'I know what time is, but if someone asks me, I cannot tell him.'

Landes might argue that Augustine's limitation is an effect of living in an age before clocks so altered the way we order our lives. An economic historian, he is obsessed with the history and mechanics of timepieces.

What does the fact that Western Europeans alone developed the mechanics of keeping time reveal about the continental culture in the midst of the 14th century? How did the invention contribute to Europe's climb to power through technology and the pursuit of knowledge?

Despite its high potential to be dry, technical and incomprehensible to the average reader, Landes' story of the clock provides an interesting narrative and a comprehensive knowledge of, well, most things that shaped the modern world.

Like most people, Landes had never strongly considered the importance of the ever-ticking clock until a friend showed him a delicate, intricate little piece that seized his attention and wouldn't let go. …

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