Friday, 2 July 2010

"1001 Books to read before You Die" Friday!

2 down/ 999 to go!

This week’s book review comes to you from the sick bed (sigh, hack, cough, sneeze) of your blogger. The one cold virus (vicious bugger) that finds me once a year (after what I am sure is a long and arduous search), lands in my nasal passage and then quickly, like the villain it is, makes its way into my pulmonary system where it resides while I hack, cough, run a fever, and am generally miserable to be around. Fortunately, it is only that – a nasty cold that prefers my pulmonary system to my nasal cavity and will be beaten down within a week or so by the barrage of prescription aerosol inhalants, antibiotics, and luscious, yummy, happy, narcotic cough syrup which makes me a bit loopy, some happy, and very chatty – so not all bad eh?

This week’s selection is Metamorphoses by Ovid

Lifespan: b.43 BCE (Italy), d.17 CI
First Published: 1488, by Antonius Nebrissensis
First Composed: Between c. 2-8
Original Language: Latin

This is another volume that I believe the majority of us encountered at some time during our school years. It is some “two hundred and fifty stories” composed into one continuous narrative. It is “a mythological history of the world, beginning with creation and ending with the foundation of Rome and the apotheosis of Julius Caesar.

The theme running through the stories is the constant questioning of the existing traditions and power structure of the times: Arachne challenges the goddess Athene to a tapestry-making contest; Phaethon insists on taking the reins of the sun chariot from his father; Daphne escapes from Apollo’s clutches by praying to a river god, who changes her into a tree.

Ovid uses “a comic, deflating way, reminiscent of mock-epic” to relate the tales. An excellent example is the story of Perseus who “kills his enemies by turning them to stone with the head of the Medusa which he carries in a bag, it is not the heroic that we see, but the use of a disproportionate force not unlike employing nuclear weapons in a bar brawl.”

The Metamorphoses' incorporation of dialogue within a narrative, along with its wit, playfulness, and sheer sense of fun, exemplifies much of what we associate with the present day novel.

Ovid’s work has had an impact on a string of notable novelists since its inception and continues to do so.

My recommendation is much like that for Aesop’s Fables - if for some reason you never read it, do so now. If you have children, of any ages about the place, it makes for excellent nighttime stories.

On my own table, Storm Prey has picked up the pace a bit, but I’m unimpressed. Meanwhile Appetite For Life, The Biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch has arrived from Amazon and I’m looking forward to beginning it as soon as I finish off Storm Prey.

Last week I Beatrice gave us all a referral to what she is reading and looking forward to next. I invite you all to do the same if you are so inclined.

Ciao and happy reading.


James Higham said...

I'm reading you just now.

I Beatrice said...

This comment has been languishing on the first of your book reviews - so I have taken the liberty of copying it here, in the hope of perhaps eliciting a response from you or others.......

Sorry about your cold by the way! Not a good time of year to be suffering one of those, so I send you all good thoughts.)

Here goes though with the suggestion:

May one - dare one I wonder? - add a little supplementary category to your booklist? The category I have in mind is "The book/or books I'd most like to have written myself". I adore and admire many books, but there are only two that I wish I had actually written myself.

The first is "The Great Gatsby".
(Ok, you dislike it I know, but I won't hold that against you! Nor does it in any way diminish its perpetual charm for me.)

The second (and I agree it has little obvious connection with the first) is Balzac's "Eugenie Grandet".

I won't burden you with an account of what these two books mean to me - but I'd be fascinated to learn which book or books you (or others) perhaps wish you'd written yourself(selves)?

I never got far with Joyce by the way - but I did stagger through all five volumes of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past" (in English I fear).

Some of it bored or irritated me, but there were passages - and long ones too! - in which I simply exulted. There's a little game you play when reading Proust.... It's called "getting all the way to the end of the sentence without once looking back to see how it began"!

Great fun, that.

lady macleod said...

Good response! Thank you for coming by.

I Beatrice
I'm sorry you felt neglected dear girl. You may of course add any category you feel is needed - in your comments. I'm always glad to have your input. Thank you for coming by.