A large crowd squeezed into tiny Avid Bookshop on Wednesday night to celebrate the release of Rick LaFleur’s latest book, Ubi Fera Sunt. The retired head of the Classics Department at UGA has published numerous Latin textbooks, but his latest project is a little different. It is a translation of the Maurice Sendak children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are into Latin.
Many of the guests were former students and colleagues of the beloved professor, who taught Latin for 40 years. “Where else would you want to have a book signing?” LaFleur asked at the start of the evening. “The word ‘avid,’ like 70 to 80 percent of all English words, came from what I call the mother tongue.” The author had much praise that night for the small local bookseller and for his favorite language.
LaFleur is a natural teacher, and with his full white beard and professorial jacket, he looked like he was back in front of a classroom as he eagerly discussed the book and, later, gave a lively reading. He credited the “sword and sandal” genre of '50s and '60s movies, including Spartacus, as having inspired him to study the subject that became his life’s work.
He also shared the long journey to publication, including struggling with accountants and their profitability factoring, which he described as a “Herculean book labor by committee.” The retired professor was eager to get the work published before his grandchildren started heading to graduate school, and he has succeeded at that.
LaFleur appeared to revel in the drama of the reading. He rolled his Latin “r”s with flair and savored the name of the little boy at the center of the drama, pronouncing it as “Mahxie-musss.” The author’s quirky personality was cited by many attendees as a reason for their being there that night. They waited patiently for their turn to chat with LaFleur and to get their books signed.
Local actress Lisa Mende was at the front of the line. Later, she said, “I’d support him if he wrote a pop-up coloring book. My daughter, Jenna, took Latin this year, loved it, discovered that Rick was the author of her textbook… [She] wanted his book now, to read to her baby in Latin, when he or she is born.”
Avid sold out of the book at the reading, but more copies are on the way in time for Christmas.
For more information about Ubi Fera Sunt by Richard A. LaFleur, visit Ubi Fera Sunt.