Saturday, 27 December 2008

Myth Series

I recently read two books in the Myth Series that Random House has done.
The series consists of a number of books. The publisher asked authors to choose a favourite myth and retell it. A while back I read Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad, her take on the Odyssey, written from Penelope's point of view. I should say that I actually listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the chorus bits.
This week I've read two more, and my parents gave me one for Christmas (and they didn't even know I'd been reading the series!)

Finished December 25
Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Winterson takes two myths here, those of Atlas and Heracles, and we see the story from both points of view. Atlas has been punished by the gods and forced to carry the world on his back. Heracles has been forced to work for another and made to perform difficult labours. Mixed into the story are man's exploration of space, Winterson's own baggage, and above all the story of choices. What do we really want and why? How do we figure it out? Winterson weaves it all together seamlessly and lets us see it anew. This is a wonderful retelling and I found myself going back and rereading bits of it based on later chapters. I especially liked the dog.

Finished December 26
The Fire Gospel by Michel Faber
This story relates to the myth of Prometheus and the gift of fire. It is less a retelling and more a story with a similar theme. Theo Griepenkerl is an academic visiting Iraq on behalf of a Canadian museum to offer money for rebuilding in exchange for loans of works of art and antiquity. When a bomb goes off in the museum he is visiting and the curator is killed, he finds scrolls that had lain hidden in a piece of art for two thousands years. Theo is able to translate them from the Aramaic and finds them to be another Gospel, written by an eye-witness to the last days of Jesus Christ. The publication of the translated work acts like the gift of fire in igniting mankind with many different emotions. I found this work less interesting and Theo a rather bemused naive man out of touch with reality until forced to confront it.

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