“Finances fray our nerves and shadow our souls. As flies caught in an international web of commerce, few things can make us feel as powerful or as pathetic as our bank balance. So if your parents just paid your rent again or you just can’t reconcile those little numbers on your ATM receipt, these books’ torturous relationships with cash will leave you feeling better about your own (legal) tender issues.”
” [Sophie] McManus does not fear to let such seemingly cancerous things as money or medicine or measured love act as her story’s heroes; it is an unromantic portrayal of love’s shortcomings which she regularly stands, from the novel’s first page to its last, across from the beast’s great power, allowing her portrait of the titular unfortunates, those who cease to be suspended properly between the two.”
“Is it any wonder Diocles was so highly paid, his skill set in such strong demand? Consider the circumstances: mounting a chariot—usually pulled by four horses, sometimes two, when really showing off, as many as 10—with the reins tied around his waist like a cummerbund-cum-noose, festooned in the red regalia of his racing team, drowning in the fevered cries of the 250,000 Romans who have packed the mighty Circus Maximus, what Struck poetically called “the beating heart at the center of the empire,” except this heart is screaming, is drinking and dining and cheering and tossing cursed coins, a heart roaring all at once as the gates are sprung.
Thousands of pounds of muscle and metal, wood and blood, all careening about the track of the Circus, the knives flashing and wheels grinding as each full contact lap finds them attempting to ram each other into the spinae, the median, at the center of the track; now they come crashing pell-mell into the hairpin turns, each revolution marked by destruction, death commonplace, as if Mars, Victoria, Mania, and Mercury were all locked in an orgy. Is it any wonder this was the most popular of the famous Roman games?”