Sunday, February 28, 2010

"I, Odysseus..." // Exploring "The Lost Books of The Odyssey"

"Sing to me of the man, muse, of twists and turns driven time and again of course once he plundered the hallowed heights of Troy..."

Zachary Mason has done this, and then ventured one better in his "dazzling" (NY Times) debut novel The Lost Books of the Odyssey. Mason's approach looks to be of interest for writers in general, especially those attempting to work with ancient stories in a fresh way.

Full Article Here // Excerpt Below

In one of the chapters in Zachary Mason’s dazzling debut novel, Odysseus — the wily warrior and canny voyager from Homer’s epic poem — emerges as the creator of his own legend. He’s a war-weary soldier who leaves the battlefield and finds refuge outside Troy, posing as an itinerant bard, a poet who begins by singing the classics and later takes “to telling the story of Odysseus of the Greeks, cleverest of men, whose ruses had been the death of so many.”

In “The Lost Books of the Odyssey” Mr. Mason — who is identified on the book jacket as a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, as well as a finalist for the 2009 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, given to writers under 35 — has written a series of jazzy, post-modernist variations on “The Odyssey,” and in doing so he’s created an ingeniously Borgesian novel that’s witty, playful, moving and tirelessly inventive.

This is a book that not only addresses the themes of Homer’s classic — the dangers of pride, the protean nature of identity, the tryst between fate and free will — but also poses new questions to the reader about art and originality and the nature of storytelling. It’s a novel that makes us rethink the oral tradition of entertainment that thrived in Homer’s day (and which, with its reliance upon familiar formulas, combined with elaboration and improvisation, could be said to resemble software development) while at the same time making us contemplate the other art inspired by “The Odyssey,” from Joyce’s “Ulysses” to Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain.”

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