The Lost Books of the Odyssey purports to be just as the name implies—books or fragments that did not make it into the final version of The Odyssey. A chapter may have one item changed and the reader sees the cascading effect emanating from that change. Or the chapter may be told from the perspective of a different character in the epic, with or without changes. Or it may be a complete re-imagining of what “really” took place and how the epic we now read came into being. The scope isn’t limited to "The Odyssey" since many scenes from "The Iliad" and other mythic tales are included, but they usually come back to how the alternate version impacts Odysseus.
The author has created alternate worlds where “Every event is the cause of myriad effects”. While written in prose, the economy of language and descriptive vocabulary can make the chapters feel like poetry at times. I thoroughly enjoyed the book after initially resisting it.
A quick note: this edition from FS&G makes several changes from the original release by Starcherone Books. A few stories have been added while a few have been omitted. In a paper by Yasuko Taoka, she comments, "In general the second edition creates more continuity between chapters, and eliminates the mathematical superstructure [the first edition] borrowed from Italo Calvino’s "Invisible Cities"."
Basically this scrappy book - no matter how lovely to read - was nothing more than a biased agenda-driven attack on Western Mythology.
Mythology exists for a purpose - which the author clearly doesn't grasp. These stories, ancient by the time that of the Ancient (historical) Greeks, have withstood the thousands of years of history to modern times for those reasons.
Meanwhile this author has written just this... And will fade from history quite rapidly IMO.
He needs to stick with computer science, his daytime job!
This might be a book for the enjoyment of all - it can be taken in and savored on so many levels, each giving something to the reader, or listener.
The naive (in the better sense) reader may simply enjoy the tales, and delight in the variations on plot and character without wondering ‘why’ too much, as well as the experiential sense of emotion which permeates these episodes. The more mature reader might take some interest to explore the various plot devices and characterizations, the educated reader might wonder at the sheer inventiveness of the human imagination, and how it stretches back thousands of years, and the hyper-educated readers, the ones I would lust after, might either appreciate these inventions, and also the author’s hewing so close the the ‘original’ (as there is some note noting that the originals were told tales, altered for each audience and according to the mood or whatnot of the teller, rather than frozen and lifeless predetermined forms, repeated exactly, ad nauseum, for centuries) anyway, that sort might either love this, or despise it - each would have excellent reasons worth considering.
This book offers a series of short, very satisfying readings, leaving one sated yet wanting more; perhaps each of the variations need to clear the imagination’s memory a little, before one goes diving into the next foray of the author’s, and our culture’s, imaginary history. But I am a naive reader, and I loved this book.
NYT 100 Notable Books of 2010
Beautifully written, but a bit too repetitive by the end. If there was anything more to it than lovely language, like an actual plot or a message, I missed it, but hardly minded because it was so lovely to read.
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