We want to tell the story again. For thousands of years, myths have captured imaginations, helping us to make sense of the world. Now, some of the world's leading authors have been inspired to reread and retell their favourite myths. It is backed by an international marketing and PR campaign. A national media partner is already lined up in the UK. Margaret Atwood is the bestselling author of "Oryx and Crake", which has sold over 100,000 copies. "Now that all the others have run out of air, it's my turn to do a little story ...
We want to tell the story again. For thousands of years, myths have captured imaginations, helping us to make sense of the world. Now, some of the world's leading authors have been inspired to reread and retell their favourite myths. It is backed by an international marketing and PR campaign. A national media partner is already lined up in the UK. Margaret Atwood is the bestselling author of "Oryx and Crake", which has sold over 100,000 copies. "Now that all the others have run out of air, it's my turn to do a little story-making." In Homer's account in "The Odyssey", Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan war after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumours, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and - curiously - twelve of her maids. In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged Maids, asking: 'What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?'. In Atwood's' dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the storytelling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality - and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
I like Atwood, particularly her poems. This book was pretty terrible. Under the guise of exloring the myth of Penelope from the womans' perspective, it rendered Penelope as impotent as characterised modern housewife home reading glossy mags. In fact a glossy mag tone seemed to pervade the book, and little stabs at poetry through the chorus were oddly terrible. Like a different author intirely. Sad, but I am staying away from Atwood for a while after that.
Feb 4, 2009
Margaret Atwood is and will remain one of my favorite writers, and her retelling of the myth of Odysseus and Penelope, titled "The Penelopiad," is a great illustration of why. Her prose here is, as always, innovative and alive. Penelope, our narrator, grabs the reader immediately with her confessional tale, and I could barely put the book down. Told from her home in the fields of asphodel in 21st century Hades, Penelope reflects on the events of the Odyssey as well as the newfangled happenings in current society. She is most troubled, after all this time, of the hanging of her twelve maids by her husband and her son after they had slaughtered the treacherous suitors. The killing of the suitors made a certain amount of sense; they had pressed her to forget Odysseus and choose a new husband, eating up the wealth of her kingdom and plotting against the life of her son. But the maids were slaves whom she had raised from girlhood, and even in death their murders hang heavy on her soul. As she recounts her side of these famous events, the maids act as a sort of Chorus, interjecting every other chapter with admonishments and questions that take many different forms: poems, songs, jump-rope rhymes, even an anthropology lecture. This slim volume is well worth reading and is a brilliant insight into a character known almost entirely for being the single adjective, "Faithful."
May 24, 2007
Patient, Perturbed, Penelope
Penelope tells the story of Odysseus from her personal perspective from the grave. That seems to be the only venue from which she can honestly vent her own opinion.
Atwood brings research and wry humor to poor Penelope's pathetic life. We learn about her parents, her upbringing, her relationship with her sister, the arrogant Helen, and her lonely life from the moment she bears the heir, Telemachus. Like many military wives, Penelope must manage the homefires alone, but with Odysseus's old nurse bustling about and usurping any power or identity Penelope might have, and a mother-in-law who dislikes her, she does not even have the recognition as the Lady of the Manor at best or as proud Chatelain at least.
Although she understands the reason for the slaughter of the importunate suitors, Penelope remains puzzled about the reason for the hanging of the twelve maids, her only friends and confidants in a hostile environment far from her home. The reader continues to hope for a happy ending, but that is reserved for the hero, not Penelope.
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