Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Misguided.


First things first:  A very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to each of you in 2016 and far, far beyond.

I planned on offering a photo essay of Greece and spent time researching various sites offering stunning photos. Then I did something I often do when researching a subject: I did a control test, in this instance to see if I could trust the the sites’ descriptions of places depicted in the photos that I did not know by taking a look at how they described places I knew well.

That’s when I came across this Exhibit A, captioned, “House on Mykonos.”

Well, I guess in a way you could call it a “house” but only in the sense it’s a house of the Lord, for what it actually shows is the rear of perhaps the most photographed church in the Cyclades, the five-churches-in-one, 15th Century icon of Mykonos—Paraportiani.  I know it well, as its front side appears on the cover of the Greece-published versions of my first Andreas Kaldis novel.

That rather decided stumble on the part of the photo editor got me to thinking about how much easier it is to research these days, and how much easier it is to be misled. I just finished the first solid draft of my next book—taking place on Santorini—and as well as I might think I know the island (compared to someone who’s never been there:)), there are for sure myriad historical details of which I’m blissfully ignorant and must turn to reference materials for guidance; a particularly trusting endeavor considering how many of the original tracts are in Greek.

So, on my trip to Santorini this past summer, I acquired five solid historical and tourist-directed books I was assured covered the details I sought. And they did. That’s the good news.  The bad news is they didn’t always agree.  Dates, architectural styles, names, and even distances were up for grabs on places I’d planned on using in the book. I guess you could say I had authority for whatever I might like to say, but that wasn’t how I looked at it.   

Basic intellectual disagreements I could accept, but some of the differences struck me as simply lazy or sloppy research habits undertaken by someone just trying to churn out a guidebook.  By tossing out guesswork they obfuscated the truth for all who followed.  You couldn’t tell which version was correct simply by the number of publications that agreed because it was obvious that some had borrowed from another’s work and did that mean the original was the respected authority on the subject or just that the repeater simply relied on the first authority he found?

And let’s not get into Wikipedia, which as much as I run to it (don’t we all) for a general, quick and dirty take, is just as besieged with false gods as the ancient Minoans—or so the guide books say.

Let’s just say I think I got it right, but if I didn’t, at least I’m admitting my work is fiction.  Having vented, permit me to post some of the photos, for though the captions may be wrong—which is why none is repeated here—they show the true majesty of Greece.  Come visit…with or without a guidebook.  You’ll love it.



  1. Absolutely GEORGEOUS, Jeff (not you, Greece, silly).

    The 'error' problem is why REAL researchers always go back to original source documents. Unfortunately, few of us have the time, money, or talent to be REAL researchers. Sigh.

    Best wishes to you and Barbara!

    1. Santorini is particularly tricky on that research score because so many natural disasters befell it. Then again, a natural disaster preserved Akrotiri "almost" intact. Best to you too, my friend.

  2. Gorgeous! As is I hope the year to come for you and for Barbara. Thanks for the tour, bro. I plan on inviting myself for a visit one of these. :)

  3. Go with the famous words of Slartiblartfast 'It's much better to be happy than right.'

    One of my friends is a typical old professor; doddery, bearded, prone to falling asleep in public places. He 're translates' Ancient Greek into German and then into English. As many original translations are simply a version, an interpretation if you like, and he proves they can be re-examined and given totally new meaning. It's great to talk to him about religious texts that are accepted word for word- but those words are never the original ones. I use him to back up my theory that all history is up for grabs - and normally by the victors.

    1. You're lucky to have a friend like that. Far too many of us only have access to researchers worthy of the name Starttofartfast.

  4. First Happy New Year to you and Barbara. Then a big kudos for this post as I spent a good part of the last week researching aspects of Cairo and had - as you have described so well - the conflicting views of history. My old newspaper days mantra was 'three sources' and if they all said the same thing it must be fact, these days I am not so sure. Looking forward to that next book of yours!

    1. It seems the world is is awash in so many writing so much as authoritative without anything more to back them up than a typeface