I’m rereading Peter Green’s astonishing Alexander of Macedon, a biography of Alexander the Great. I’ve read it a couple times before, and find it alternately hilarious (believe it or not, his accounts of Alexander’s parents and the Macedonian political situation before Alexander’s rule are very funny) and chilling (Alexander’s exploits make for bracing reading).
As a writer, I’m also amazed at how consistently great a performance it is. Every paragraph is beautifully crafted, for over 500 pages.
Tonight, I stumbled upon the biographical note. I knew that Green was a classicist at University of Texas, but hadn’t realized what else he’d done with his life:
After a short spell as Director of Studies in Classics at Cambridge [where he’d received his BA and Ph.D.], he worked for some years as a freelance writer, translator and literary journalist and as a publisher. In 1963 he emigrated to Greece with his family. From 1966 to 1971 he lectured in Greek history and literature at College Year in Athens; in 1971 he came to the University of Texas at Austin.
In other words, though he eventually ends up as the Dougherty Centennial Professor of Classics, earlier in his life Green is a model of the non-traditional scholar. The first book mentioned in his biography is a volume of essays published in 1960. The Alexander biography was published in short form in 1970, and the full-blown version in 1972– when he was 48, in other words (he was born in 1924).
So perhaps there’s hope for me yet.