Friday, August 24, 2012

The Song of Achilles - A Short Review

Whose story is this ? The title may tell us it is a tribute to Achilles, the great Greek hero of legend, but it is really the story of Patroclus, the finest of Greek men. It is a story of lost parental love, exile, humiliation, resignation, found love, honor, devotion, compassion, loyalty, tenderness, cruelty, grief, retribution, and redemption. It is a story of war and peace and love and loss and life.

Madeline Miller has dissected the story of Achilles and his role in the Trojan War. In doing so, she has brought Patroclus to the center of the story and told us a tale of his relationship with Achilles, the son of Thetis, the demi-goddess sea-nymph and Peleus, the mortal king of Phthia. While Achilles' fate is tied to a prophecy that promises great physical prowess and glory in battle, it also promises a short life. Patroclus knows this and still loves Achilles. He devotes his life to helping Achilles be all that is possible - and here's the rub. Achilles, while a heroic figure with god-like strength, is only human. He suffers great pride and hubris, faults that will be his undoing because they lead to cruelty, vanity, stubborness, and ultimately to recklessness and betrayal of those who love and honor him. And it is then that Patroclus steps forward to save Achilles' honor and pays the ultimate mortal price, putting into action the fulfillment of the prophesy of Achilles' fate. It is left to those who see Patroclus as 'the best of men' to help him rest with the results of the prophesy fulfilled, the Trojan War over, and the ashes of Achilles and Patroclus mingled in the ground outside a crumbled Troy.

I loved this book. I loved the pace of the story. I loved the humanity that Miller gave her characters. I loved the sensitivity with which she handles the complex relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I love the knowledge of Greek culture and mythology that she brings to the novel. I love the level of research and knowledge of Homer and Vergil that she uses to weave this unique take on the tale of Patroclus and Achilles.

Most of all, I loved the depth of character that she gave to Patroclus. His is a character that I will not soon forget. I cannot wait to see what Madeline Miller brings to the reading world the next time she is published. If she can approach her next book with the same level of research and writing, it will surely be another page-turner. Well done, Ms. Miller!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Magpie Tales ... Primordial Plea

Image by Francesa Woodman

Primordial Plea

Let me return
Let me return …

The wolf is at the door
Yapping, slobbering
Pushing with a nose
Snapping teeth
Pacing, pacing

I’m holding my shell
My shell …

How I sicken of wrappings.
The starch, the rustle
Sliding over skin
Being pulled back
Cool air causing spasms

Let me return
Let me return…

I demand to foil the wolf,
No going to ground for me.
I wish to float off;
To be the one to tear free.

I’m holding my shell …
Let me release it …

I dream a blue current
Pulling gently seductively
Swirls of sand and mud
Soft fins fluttering close
And sunbeams above

I'm slipping my shell
My shell ...

A fast write to a difficult image - what is the artist trying to say here? There is such room for interpretation; the image of the breast and the hands tearing free while holding fast is intriguing.

This post is a creative writing exercise that is submitted to Tess Kinkaid's writing share at The Mag

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Memories of Rome

Today, I am thinking of Rome and Italian food because I am dealing with the load of tomatoes that my husband has plunked down on our kitchen counter over the course of the week. I have close to fifty tomatoes to use today in a batch of tomato sauce that I will be canning for pizza sauce. We're big fans of pizza here in the grey cottage on the hill.

So, while the smell of tomato sauce builds to a peak in the kitchen, I have downloaded a few choice shots of our trip to Rome, several years back. We went as a delayed anniversary gift to ourselves. Flew into the little airport outside the city on a Ryan Air flight and took the bus into the city, muddled our way to a small pension near the Colosseum and spent five days walking and gawking, eating and drinking wine, and soaking up the Roman 'attitude'. It was wonderful!

I loved the small shops with all manner of foodstuffs. The windows were always so picturesque.

The Colosseum was a tired old wreck of a building that the Italian government is trying to preserve and restore  ... I found its upper reaches far more photo-worthy than the actual street level architecture. The moon played along nicely.

We tossed our three coins into the Trevi Fountain, kissed on the deal, and trusted that we'd make it back to Rome sometime in the future.  We haven't yet gone back, but life's long and who knows? For now, we have our memories ... and pizza sauce cooking in the kitchen!

Now ... link up over at Alyce's blog athomewithbooks and check out the other Saturday Snapshot posts that folks have shared! Get busy and post your own photoshare ... it's always fun to see what inspires everyone else!