Odysseys

Reading Zachary Mason's forthcoming The Lost Books of the Odyssey, I've been in danger of missing my subway stop.  The book is hard to characterize; it's a collection of short pieces -- some of them really  short -- which reimagine and retell parts of the Iliad, or the Odyssey, or imaginary scenes and episodes in between the actions in those two epics.  Funny, spooky, action-packed, philosophical -- the mood keeps shifting, and you keep wanting to read just one more.

I wouldn't want to spoil any of its pleasures -- part of the niftiness of the book is figuring out, as you read, what aspect of the original is being turned on its head.  But look out for the story in which one of the characters in the Odyssey is neatly transformed, by the end, into Homer himself.

 

One final note: back of the book says that the author is "a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence."  At first that background seemed like an unlikely fit with his topic, but in retrospect, it's not: Odysseus is, after all, the legendary problem-solver and wily thinker, the crafty soul who applies ingenuity where others come after the problem with brute force.  And this is a crafty work indeed.

 

-BILL TIPPER

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.