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Canongate Myth Series: A Short History of Myth, The Penelopiad, Weight,…

av Karen Armstrong

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Review of The Penelopiad, the contribution of Margaret Atwood: This work is a reimagining of the story of Odysseus told from the point of view of Penelope and the maids Odysseus hanged. Told after Penelope's death, from the shadows of Hades, she looks back on her life with Odysseus. This book does not overtly point out the difficulties of the patriarchal system that regarded women as property, but it runs through every line. In addition, the issues of slaves and the rights of ownership of the slaves is also explored through the lamentations of the maids, who were, as the book says, "raped without permission" - permission of their owner, Odysseus. A quick and easy read, written in the familiar style of Atwood, and recommended for a different view of a familiar story.
Review of Dream Angus, the contribution of Alexander McCall Smith: This is a collection of myths of Angus, the god of dreams, told in modern day language, interspersed with modern stories composed by the author. Easy to read and enjoyable.
  Devil_llama | May 5, 2013 |
The Penelopiad is a retelling of the Odysseus myth from two alternate points of view -- that of Penelope, Odysseus' wife, and, in the form of a Greek chorus, that of the twelve servant girls that were hung when Odysseus returned from his voyage. Penelope's portion is told from a modern point of view and in a semi-modern voice, as she walks eternally through the fields of asphodel in the afterlife. She begins with her birth, then her marriage to Odysseus and finally her long wait while he was away for twenty years. She tells which portions of the myth were accurate and which were a misinterpretation of the actual facts.

I thought this was a clever little novella that seemed to lose its way a bit toward the end when it delved too much into modern day feminist interpretations of Odysseus' behavior. As The Odyssey is one of my favorite stories, I was a bit concerned about the possible demonization of Odysseus but I thought that Penelope was quite fair in her descriptions of him. The chorus of dead servant girls, on the other hand, were less amusing and I wasn't sure whether they were trustworthy or just vindictive and angry in their interpretations of events.

I think that the book contains enough summary information to be readable even by those who haven't read The Odyssey or are only generally familiar with the story. But, as you can imagine, the story is enhanced with a deeper knowledge of the original myth.

http://webereading.com/2011/05/now-that-im-dead-i-know-everything.html ( )
  klpm | Jun 21, 2011 |
I've struggled to not feel guilt at indulging in the hardcover releases of the Canongate Myth series. Feeling the pain of sacrifice when the order for this beautiful collection of the first four volumes, encased and carrying the passionate invocation of Philip Pullman, was sent, an electronic propitiation. Knowing that the series is planned to carry on until 2036 with several volumes each year, the growing expense gives me slight pause, a hesitation before offering up the pungent green papers to burn. Only slight however, as when a coupon exerts its electronic impulse upon me and I discover that my local Borders supposedly has a hardcover of one of the more recent myths, the haste with which I arrive at the structure, payment at the ready, eyes honed upon my destination section and the alphabet wherein it should reside, may lead one to think I am in quest of the latest mindless fluff everyone can't put down or that I am one of the horde of pre- and post-pubescent teenage girls giggling zanily over the latest YA must-have drivel.

Rest easy literate traveler of the winding path, for upon yon wood-veneered shelving rests not the latest frivolity pandering to the thoughtless reader but the modern equivalent to the mythmaker's voice, a creation steeped in the history and myth-story of ages and cultures past or altered, yet remembered and resuscitated and retold, residing within this time to engage us with what has gone before yet endures still in the imagination of humanity, what, as Karen Armstrong shall illuminate within the introductory book to this gateway of canonic myth, we as a modern people have lost and must regain: our mythic stories.

Though I cannot but sound grandiloquent and verbose, it is only that such a style enables the expression of my heartfelt joy upon reading the works within this series. These modern authors have alighted upon tales of meaning, causing resonance in the core of my being as the ineffable essence of myself, ourselves, human self is explored. These myths are engaging. I find myself transported to a different place, grappling and rejoicing with dilemmas and delights that my progenitors of old pondered, laying out the mythic structure that this series reveals, carrying this legacy into modern time and modern usage and modern understanding, a modern mythmaking.

Will the gods hear my prayer? Will the apotheotic blessing be unearthed within the texts to come? Will my sweet-smelling incense call favor upon my book-reading, bowed head? Will these modern tellers of story recall us to the need for mythogenesis, the need for creation and engagement and imagination? My sacrificial struggle to grasp the physical bindings of these modern interpretations pales at the symbolic meaning to which it alludes: as my hand holds the printed word, my mind shall strive to hold the resonance of myth. ( )
  Aeyan | Apr 6, 2009 |
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