Beutner, Katharine. Alcestis. New York: SoHo, 2010.
Reason read: Female Dominion Day in parts of Greece is celebrated on January 8th. The premise is the women get to leave their husbands at home with the housework and kids while they celebrate being matriarchs.
Beutner takes Greek mythology and turns it on its head. It is no small feat to retool a myth and turn Euripides’s male-centered drama into a lesbian love story. This is the story of Alcestis, the woman who sacrificed her own life to save her husband’s. Her outward loyalty knows no limits, beginning with faking the end of her virginity on her wedding night when, like some men with a secret lover, Admetus can’t perform. But internally, Alcestis is no ordinary woman. She is a mortal with many complex personalities: as a dutiful daughter, a sacrificing wife, a ever-loving sister, a sheltered princess, and the passionate lover of a goddess.
Once Alcestis volunteers her life and she is in the underworld, she observes a place in a state of constantly shimmering and shifting allusion. It is difficult, but Alcestis begins a three-day search for her beloved sister who died at ten years old. Every time she inquires about Hippothoe she is met with strange riddles in place of replies as if to protect her from an unknown horror. No one wants to clearly say what has become of Hippothoe. Alcestis perseveres boldly for she is not afraid of the underworld, nor the gods who rule there. She will not take no for an answer. In the meantime, she says yes when she is seduced by, and ultimately falls in love with, Persephone. Alcestis seems to grow larger than life as her sexuality becomes more fluid and not as easily defined. When she is “rescued” and brought back to the living Alcestis is forever changed.
Line that stuck with me, “My mind stuttered and stuck” (p 189).
Author fact: Beutner earned her BA in classical studies from Smith College in 2003.
Book trivia: Alcestis was nominated and a finalist for a LAMBDA award in 2011.
Nancy said: Pearl called Alcestis a good novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120).
Saylor, Steven. The Venus Throw. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
Reason read: to continue the series started in March, in honor of Saylor’s birth month.
At this point in Gordianus the Finder’s life he is a 54 years old farmer in Etruria just outside Ancient Rome. He has married his Egyptian slave, Bethesda, and she has given him a daughter, Gordiana, who is thirteen years old and goes by the name Diana. Rounding out the household are two adopted sons, Meto and Eco, and Gordianus’s house slave, Belbo.
In the year 56 B.C., Gordianus is trying to live the quiet life when philosopher and former teacher Dio of Alexandria arrives at his door dressed as a woman, desperately looking for help. Because Egyptian enoys have been assassinated, he has reason to believe someone is trying to kill him next. Despite their history, the strong desire to not get involved led Gordianus to turn Dio away, a decision he would later regret when Dio is indeed found stabbed to death. Gordianus, being the finder of the truth, seeks to uncover the mystery of who killed Dio and why. Despite every indication this is a straightforward political assassination Gordianus soon realizes nothing is ever that simple.
Confessional: Because there are eight other books before The Venus Throw there so much more to this series than what I am reading for the challenge. I feel as though I am missing out on key pieces of Gordianus’s life.
Author fact: at the time of publication, Saylor was living in California.
Book trivia: I mentioned this before. Out of sixteen titles, Venus Throw is the ninth book of the Roma Sub Rosa series. I am only reading three from this series. I have one more to go.
Nancy said: Maybe it is because there are sixteen Roma Sub Rosa titles, but Pearl lists the three I am reading out of chronological order. Venus Throw is listed first when it should be second.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).
Sophocles. Antigone. Translated by Elizabeth Wycoff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.
The Cliff/Spark version of Antigone is this: Two sisters want to bury their dead brother. One wants to bury him admirably and the other doesn’t want to break the law. The brother in question cannot be buried because he was executed for a crime and must be left to rot in the courtyard as an example for the community. Defiant sister must go against the king alone as everyone who is anybody refuses to help her. True to Greek tragedy nearly everyone, including the king’s wife ends up committing suicide. The end.
Of course there is much, much more to the story and, depending on which version you read, you get it. In my version of Antigone translated by Elizabeth Wyckoff the language is watered down and somewhat pedestrian. It’s not as lyrical as other translations. A small example: from a 1906 Oxford Clarendon Press version (translated by Robert Whitelaw): “Ismene: There’s trouble in thy looks, thy tidings tell” compared with the 1954 University of Chicago Press version (translated by Elizabeth Wycoff): “Ismene: What is it? Clearly some news has clouded you” (p 159). Ismene is basically saying the same thing in each line, but the Whitelaw version has more animation, more movement. In the end Antigone is a simple story about the man against The Man, no matter how you read it.
Note: I’m note sure how many other versions have this, but I appreciated the biography of Socrates in my version.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Alpha, Beta Gammas of Greece” (p 9).
This is Cullen’s first poem of On These I Stand and if order was of important to him, Cullen made a wise decision. The imagery in this first poem is so powerful! How many of us have looked at the atrocities of this world and wondered, if there really is a God, why he would allow such horrible things to happen? Cullen does the same thing – only he takes his “religion” to a whole new level citing the less than savory Greek gods of mythology, evil doer Tantalus & forever doomed Sisyphus. And yet. Yet, Cullen concedes the god he knows must be good to allow him, a black man, to sing with poetry.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Poetry Pleasers” (p 188).