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This book gets an entry to itself because it needs one. I read it on the plane from Boston; it was another present from [personal profile] sovay, who says that I am the person she thought of upon seeing on the bookstore shelf a novel in verse that was, from the back cover, very obviously slash of Herakles and the monster cattle-herd Geryon, only updated into a contemporary setting.

I repeat: novel in verse. Mythological slash. The person I'd have thought of is [personal profile] lnhammer, but it was fair to think of me.

The thing is, Anne Carson is both a moderately well-known poet and a moderately well-known writer on the classics, whose Eros the Bittersweet I was assigned in college and whose translations of Sappho are Not The Way I'd Do Them but so very much so that they absolutely fascinate me because I just wouldn't have thought of it like that. So I went into this confidently expecting it not to suck, despite the novel-in-verse-ness, which I usually take as a warning sign.

I-- hmmm. I am going to have to reread this at some point, is the thing. It is very rare for me to look at a book and say that I just don't get it, that I can't even tell whether there is something to get but that I think there might be and I don't know what it is. Over my head at bird-height, this went. At least, the primary chunk of it did. There are several portions of this book, and the first oh five pages or so are brilliant and worthy. A large part of what we know of Geryon, who was killed by Herakles as part of that hero's tenth labor, comes from the fragments of a poem by Stesichorus, a poem we have in sketch and quotation but not entirety. Stesichorus is most well known as the author of the Palinode: he had written a poem insulting to Helen of Troy and from the aether she struck him blind. Knowing the cause, he sat down and wrote a very brief poem saying that none of it was true, that she had never been to the city of Troy, and she restored his sight. The Palinode is a perfect little piece. Carson's book, being about Geryon, begins with Stesichorus, and the first few pages are a metatextual meditation on the truth behind the story of the composition of the Palinode, a meditation so tangled that it intentionally bites itself in the small of the back, a dazzling piece of postmodernist rhetoric after which I wanted to applaud. It was witty and sweet and touching.

Then the rest of the book started. )


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