Books: Antic amid Antiquity

ROME FOR OURSELVES (244 pp.)—Aubrey Menen—McGraw-Hill ($15).

The irreverent writer in an irreverent age runs the risk of being an invisible man writing in invisible ink. Impish, antic Aubrey Menen has retained high visibility by spoofing the solemn and the sacred from pukka sahibs (The Prevalence of Witches) to Hindu epics (The Ramayana). In Rome for Ourselves he takes on another highly worshipful subject—the Eternal City. Tonic in tone and eclectic in vision, Menen's superbly illustrated Rome is an amusingly literate exercise in debunkmanship, the art of using the past while appearing to abuse it.

Were the ancient Romans men of austere probity,...

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