Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton - Fawn M. Brodie

Got this book from a sketchy street vendor in Philadelphia, and I was so happy to find it, as I had read a little bit about the amazing linguist, anthropologist, and explorer Sir Richard Burton (not to be confused with the actor Richard Burton), and thought he was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and interesting people who have ever lived, and I wanted to read more. Sadly, I placed the book on the shelf and there it sat. My desire to learn more about this amazing man somehow got eclipsed by..... life, I guess! I think part of the reason I may have been reluctant to read this book was that it was written in the mid 1960s and sometimes books like this, particularly from that era, can be dry and pedantic and dull, and I didn't want this amazing man to get buried in a boring book. The mid-60s was also rife with "Freudian analysis" of everything, which can be extremely tiresome as well. So thank goodness for RoofBeam Reader's TBR Pile Challenge! I put this book on the list this year and managed to finish it just in time to count it for September - hooray!

I am happy to report that I very much enjoyed the book. The writing was not dull at all, it was very readable and although it maintained an academic tone it wasn't boring as I had feared. Also, the Freudian nonsense was not epidemic through the entire book. Before reading the book, I had a rather negative opinion of Burton's wife, and this book actually made me a little bit more sympathetic to her (but just a little). As an undisciplined language junkie, I was very interested to read about how he mastered 40 languages (including dialects) - turns out discipline is a main ingredient, ha ha. Once again, I am glad I read this book and annoyed at myself for taking so long to do it. Recommended.

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