7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars skewed perspectives, beautifully crafted
Zachary Mason's "Lost Books of the Odyssey" is beautifully presented, outside and in.
I didn't read the tales in order. Someone else reviewing them bemoaned the brevity of so many of the pieces, but I loved the clean, stripped sharpness of each episode. The author preserved just enough of the feel of formula and epithet of epic without labouring those...
Published on 1 Dec 2011 by daisy47
12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and arrogant - opportunity missed
I loved The Odyssey when I read it many years ago as an eighteen year old, but have not returned to it since. So my knowledge of the exciting adventures of Odysseus was a bit blurry round the edges but I was not in total ignorance. However, I have to say that I found this acclaimed new book by Zachery Mason to be puzzling, confusing and arrogant.
On its jacket...
Published on 10 Feb 2011 by J. Coulton
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars skewed perspectives, beautifully crafted,
I didn't read the tales in order. Someone else reviewing them bemoaned the brevity of so many of the pieces, but I loved the clean, stripped sharpness of each episode. The author preserved just enough of the feel of formula and epithet of epic without labouring those characteristics. In any case, to do so might have dulled the originality of the collection, or made it seem merely some sort of pastiche.
In taking away some of the elements the ancients valued, Mr Mason adds dimensions of personality. Greek heroes are often uninteresting in their one-dimensional consistency, but Odysseus here is complex and ambiguous and (!) likeable.
I'm sure all keen readers go through spells when they read just because it's what they do, but long for a book that enraptures and engages and requires a real effort of will power to put down so that there will still be some of its joys to enjoy later. They do come along every now and again.
This is most certainly one of them.
It's not the Odyssey, nor does it try to be, but it's a tribute and an ornament to its inspiration.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A playful reimagining of Homer,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wily Odysseus,
This review is from: The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Kindle Edition)Homer`s Odysseus is regularly characterised as `wily`. Other heroes may be bigger, faster, stronger, but when it comes to quick wits, Odysseus is in a class of his own. It`s highly appropriate, therefore, that Zachary Mason should have used him as the hero for his novel, because `The Lost Books of the Odyssey` is a tour de force of subtle imagination, a series of alternative, and unpredictable, takes on the basic elements of the Odysseus myth. Do not go to it expecting a linear novel; each chapter (some less than a page long) is self contained. What you get instead is a group of short stories or reflections, linked not only by subject matter but also by their intellectually challenging yet playful erudition.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever riffs on the worst commuter journey in history,
This review is from: The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Hardcover)A collection of alternative versions of Homer's "The Odyssey". Clever, innovative, beautifully written and interesting, particularly for lovers of the Classics.
Zachary Mason suggests that Homer's "Odyssey" was merely one particular ordering of the events of Odysseus' return to Ithaca after the Trojan War. "Echoes of other Odysseys", he suggests exist, including a 44-episode variation in a "pre-Ptolomeic papyrus excavated from the desiccated rubbish mounds of Oxyrhnchus" and this is what is "translated" here. So we are presented with these 44 often very short stories that reconstruct elements of the Odyssey in a kind of alternate reality, asking "what if it were slightly different", and what emerges is a non-linear, mosaic of stories. If Homer had decided to present his book in DVD format, these would be in the "extras" of alternative "takes" on things. The result is like a jazz riff on the original stories.
Even if you are not intimately acquainted with the original "Odyssey" of the worst commute home from work until the M25 was built, you will probably be familiar with some of the imagery and stories. There's Penelope waiting for her husband's return, the Cyclopes, the Sirens attracting sailors to their death on treacherous rocks. Well, they're all here but each tale is slightly altered or viewed from a different angle. I confess that my last encounter with the original was at school and a detailed knowledge of the "Odyssey" is not absolutely necessary to appreciate this book, although I suspect the more you know, the more you will appreciate this book. Certainly some passing familiarity with the story would be advantageous.
Mason effectively and cleverly writes in a very similar style to the Homeric epic. It's episodic, poetic, often beautifully written but with an added dry humour. In the very first chapter I was completely charmed by Odysseus' return home after his 20-year journey, noticing that a gate had been mended in his absence which struck me as particularly poignant. There are several such instances throughout the book. In the same chapter, he goes on to note that seeing Penelope "without the eyes of a homecoming, only an echo of her beauty remains".
We are presented with several conflicting versions of events - in one story Odysseus marries Helen rather than her sister Penelope, and in several he returns home to find different scenarios. In one story, Homer himself makes an appearance.
I would not have been at all surprised to find that Mason was a Classical scholar, but remarkably he is a computer scientist and this his is his first book.
However, for all its qualities, I found the short length of most of the pieces ultimately a little frustrating. I can understand the desire to replicate the episodic style of Homer, but it means that it lacks much to `get your teeth into' and I began to weary of the clever riffs. And the use of footnotes is peculiar. There are not that many of them, but it seemed to me that it needed either more to illustrate the variations from the original story, or less to stand alone as a work that didn't need explanation. The result is neither one thing nor the other.
If you have enjoyed this book, then I'd highly recommend David Malouf's Ransom which re-visits "The Iliad" too. The other book it put me in mind of is John Banville's The Infinities.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post Modern and the Oral Tradition,
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I saw myself how my wit exceeded that of other men...",
In Mason's version of this epic, the story lines change. Odysseus himself vies for the hand of Helen and has some success in winning her. After the death of Achilles, Odysseus creates a golem of Achilles out of clay so that Achilles can keep fighting. He tells the tale of Polyphemus, the giant, from Polyphemus's point of view, that of a peaceful farmer who offers hospitality to the men whom he finds occupying his cave when he returns home, and the payment they give him. Mason gives several different accounts of Odysseus's return home (choose your favorite)-in one, Penelope is a "shade," a ghostly presence whom he cannot touch. In another, she has given up waiting for him and found another husband. At other times, she is described as still bedeviled by the suitors. In yet another, Odysseus returns to find his entire city abandoned.
Even Homer himself appears in this novel, lying in a hammock and dreaming of discovering a great book. Odysseus, on the other hand, actually finds a copy of the Iliad, written by the gods before the Trojan War, in Agamemnon's cabin on the ship. Gods and goddesses flit in and out, take the appearance of humans, play tricks, and have love affairs. Tightrope walkers, Alexander the Great, and even the doctors and nurses of a sanatorium appear and disappear.
Though some reviewers say that knowledge of the "real" Odyssey is not a prerequisite to the enjoyment of this book, all the humor depends on that knowledge. The ironies, absurdities, twists and turns, and shifts in point of view need the context of the original epic to have any meaning for the reader. Lovers of postmodern fiction, with its abandonment of boundaries and its open, free-for-all attitudes will find much to love in this novel, which looks at the Odyssey through a new lens. Mary Whipple
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not standard but even better,
This review is from: The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Hardcover)Freshly contemporary, the 44 books invented by Zachary Mason - an author not less cunning than Odysseus himself - are short stories when compared to the 24 original (on average about 4 pages long versus 17). For the latter were likely composed to be song by a rhapsode, rather than to be read from a book made of paper or a Kindle-like substitute. Nevertheless Homer's spirit is still present, made even more accessible to people of our times. Indeed the original poem of Homer is not particularly easy to read.
One finds here a straightforward narrative combined with a delicious and witty language.
A kind of Homer improved. Not standard but even better.
5.0 out of 5 stars Endlessly Surprising,
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The stories are varied and short enough to stay interesting, and Mason has a strange (in a good way) and haunting imagination that seems well suited to creating dreamlike worlds where logic and meaning changes and merges form one sentence to the next in the matter of forming myth. Our world bleeds in, Homer makes a show, Odysseus lingers around every corner.
All in all, I couldn't recommend it highly enough, and I can't wait to see what a talent like this will write next.
Note: Not for you if you want one coherent story, or something loyal to the Odyssey. It explodes and remakes shards of the Odyssey. I hope the review made that clear, but I thought I'd spell it out to be sure.
5.0 out of 5 stars Shards,
Mason clearly knows his Homer and plays seductively with what might have been. His tales are very successful for the most part and I found myself unexpectedly moved by some of the stories. I think in particular of Epiphany where an uncharacteristically shy Athene offers herself to Odysseus and what then ensues. I laughed aloud at The Myrmidon Golem where Achilles is presented as a manufactured killing machine who cannot distinguish Greek from Trojan and who cooks and cleans up for Patroclus, thus leading to the unfounded idea that they are lovers. I found No Man's Wife, where Odysseus meets a dead Penelope in the Underworld and discovers why she has killed herself, almost unbearably poignant. I loved The Iliad of Odysseus in which Odysseus abandons the war, becomes a bard and exaggerates the exploits of Odysseus in the war, while never coming up `with a fully satisfactory reason why the Trojans would blithely drag a suspicious fifty-foot-tall wooden statue into their city'. Here is an Odysseus who constantly convinces, clever and shrewd, who struggles with all the problems his cleverness brings.
Inventive at all times, this is a book to recommend to anyone with more than a passing interest and knowledge of Greek mythology.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pace yourself,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)The Song of Achilles [ THE SONG OF ACHILLES ] by Miller, Madeline (Author) Mar-06-2012 [ Hardcover ] which I had just finished in a rush of her wonderful evocation of time and space around Troy. This was recommended to me and I started into it the same way but wasn't very sure what I was getting. Some of the sections are incredibly short. The perspective, even the storyteller, does frequently change. It can be disconcerting. But then I found the way to read it. And the short sections work really well for this. I read a single passage at a time. I have slowed right down to one a day. And the slower I read it, the more I get from it, and the more I appreciate it. Its a lovely idea and masterfully done. A great pleasure.
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The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason (Hardcover - 6 May 2010)
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