I had a couple of interesting pointers this week to what happens when your baby goes out into the wide and unforgiving world. The first was the worst review I've had so far on Amazon, a single star and completely at odds with everything else anyone has said about Caligula. Everyone's entitled to their opinion and I think I've said before on this blog that I know the book won't be to everyone's taste but the tone and the personal nature of some of what was said made me wonder if the reviewer had some sort of axe to grind. He was particularly exercised about the death of Circe early in the book.
"The author seems to take a certain amount of pornographic pleasure in the descriptions of animals being killed. The leopard at the beginning is a case in point. Disgusting."
I'd never deny that the arena scene is a graphic depiction of what happened to animals in the Roman Empire, and I thought long and hard about whether to tone it down, but to accuse an author of taking "pornographic" pleasure in something he's written seems to be missing the whole point of a work of fiction. Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal contain some stomach-churning descriptive writing, but that doesn't make Thomas Harris a serial killer, any more than writing about the reality of the amphitheatre makes me a gladiator or an animal murderer. Which brings me to my second point.
Caligula has just been flagged up on the Animal Liberation Front's Facebook site as an example of cruelty to animals.
You couldn't make it up!