Sunday, February 21, 2010

100 Pages In - The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

Almost having Classics as my "third" major in college, my heart skipped a beat when I received a Google Alert about a new novel that revisits Homer's protagonist with a perspective similar to Calvino and Borges. Personally, I like revisionist history, partly because it nourishes my belief that history is more narrative than fact, mainly because it's just out right fun. For me, the stories I read did remind me of a cocktail of the Homer's Odyssey, Borges's A Garden of Forking Path, and Calvino's Invisible Cities, successfully decontextualizing, a la postmodernism, the Homeric tradition. So, as I approach The Lost Books of the Odyssey at 100 pages in, I am thoroughly entertained and find myself carefully, pleasantly navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of stories that composes Mason's book.
While most of what I've read is great, not all of the stories hit their mark. Some stories end just as they are getting started. Others keep themselves safe but remaining too closely docked to the Homeric tradition. But all in all, the stories work as a whole, offering an intellegent, creative, and well-researched look at Odysseus. While keeping Homer's epic thoughtfully in mind, Mason bravely arms himself with different styles and different voices to express a range of possibilities and permutations that the Odyssey, and our existence, might suggest. Because eventhough all the stories do not hit their mark, the narratives that do make it through the eye of the axe-heads are superb, resonating with the reader long after and urging the reader to sail on to discover new possibilities for Odysseus.
In recent years, I have lived with the understanding that the old patterns always have the need to reexpress themselves. Somewhere there is a besieged wife waiting for her husband to come home from a senseless war; somewhere there is a son about to discover a truth that will destroy his life; somewhere there is a minotaur raging in a labyrinth. Mason's Lost Book of the Odyssey subtly, beautifully reminds us that if we change these patterns just a little bit, maybe we'll work through it, maybe we'll find a way home, and maybe we'll finally be free.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lent 2010

This year instead of giving up one of my nagging vices, I'm giving up a debilitating behavior, procrastination. So, for Lent I'll write something a day, be it a haiku, flash fiction, or minimalist play. Let's see how I do this year.

1.

Teeth working slower than tongue
shoveling it all down
trying to fill a bottomless pit


2.

swaying back and forth
between leathery creases
and vacant screens
that separate the East from the West

3. Dialectical Dialogue - Lent Litanies

Adam: You only go where your lust takes you...
Lilith: And that's why you'll love me until the end of time...hating yourself every pristine, endless second.

4. How to win her back...

Dig for the puzzle pieces that will help you win her back,
Find a frame to help you start understanding what when wrong, where you failed,
Crumble bit by bit as the puzzle begins to take form piece by piece

5. Stages of Man - II

Big black book, small hands
Twain's prose sharpened the speartip
of my budding wits

6. 21st Century Rambling

auto-erotic asphyxiation as an aesthetic theory,
echoing busy signal in the distance as a declaration of being floored
by laundry list of last year's dirty innards
turning left on a right-turn only lane