On Saturday, September 12th, I had the immense pleasure to launch my new book ‘The Writing on the Wall: Reading’s Latin Inscriptions’ with a book signing on occasion of the 2015 Heritage Open Days at Reading’s Waterstones branch in Broad Street.
To me, as classical scholar who has published academic papers and books for almost twenty years, this was a most welcome opportunity to do something entirely new: to go out there and share my passion for Latin and Latin inscriptions with a general audience.
During the one-hour event, I was able to talk individually to well over a dozen members of the public (with many others ‘simply’ standing by or browsing my and other beautiful Two Rivers Press publications), sharing stories and knowledge surrounding the topic of my book.
Before I arrived, I thought: what will people ask you? What would they like to know? Will they make you justify your passion for Latin:a common experience to the Classicist in public – I don’t even know how many times I have heard amo, amas, amat in response to my confession that I am a Latinist: seriously, folks, would you say ‘ah, yes, I remember: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5’ in response to someone telling you that they are mathematicians…? There must be something seriously wrong with the way Latin is still taught out there…
But anyway, what people really wanted to know was something else entirely: what gave me the idea? How long did it take? How come Reading is so oblivious of its past? How come I have seen these texts myself so many times and never really thought about them before?
The hour went past with never a dull moment. Two episodes stood out to me, however.
First, there was a young woman who browsed the book for a long time and then approached me to tell me that she was considering buying it for her younger sister, who was interested ‘in everything Latin’, and that this would be an excellent present for her. (Yes! It would be!) I was struck, because I recognised my own early-years fascination with exactly the same topic: everything Latin!
And then there was an older lady, who stood by the Two Rivers Press table for sometime, listening, without saying much at first. When she eventually made a move, and after some good conversation about the place of Classical Scholarship (and other disciplines) at the University of Reading, she said: ‘I didn’t bring my card, so I will be back on Monday to buy the book. I don’t want you to sign it for me, because I don’t know you.’
Her straightforward, unpretentious, and ruthless honesty with me, putting me in my place, made me laugh out loud: this is the Reading I have grown to love over the last eight years.
~ Peter Kruschwitz