April 21, 2013 by Heidi
We all know by now that I’m a sucker for a good retelling, so when my blogging buddy Alyssa got together with a group of gals to host a Classics Retold event in September, I was in. Sign-ups go from now through May 25th, and there are a number of categories to strike your interest. Alyssa will be hosting the Ancient to Renaissance Lit Classics, Brittany will be covering Mythology, Charlene will host 19th Century and Gothic Classics, Alison will do Children’s Classics, and Wendy with cover American & Misc. Classics. Which pretty much means, if you want to read retellings of anything from The Secret Garden to Persuasion to Medusa tales, they’re all over it.
I spent some time debating about a number of tales, working to find something where I loved the source material, there were lots of retellings available, but I hadn’t read any of them. Which turned out to be a bit of a tricky combo givin as I read retellings a lot! Genius struck, and I knew I had to go with a story where no matter how many times it is retold, it will be done in a completely different way: Homer’s The Odyssey.
I’ve read The Odyssey twice now, once in high school and once in college, and so instead of rereading the original text yet again I decided the best reminder for me is obviously going with Graphic Novel retellings. Both of these come from authors/series that have tackled a few classics including Beowulf, King Lear, Dracula, Tom Sawyer and more–so if you’re participating it’s a good place to look for adaptations!
Fresh from his triumphs in the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, wants nothing more than to return home to his family. Instead, he offends the sea god, Poseidon, who dooms him to years of shipwreck and wandering. Battling man-eating monsters, violent storms, and the supernatural seductions of sirens and sorceresses, Odysseus will need all his strength and cunning—and a little help from Mount Olympus—to make his way home and seize his kingdom from the schemers who seek to wed his queen and usurp his throne. Award-winning graphic artist Gareth Hinds masterfully reinterprets a story of heroism, adventure, and high action that has been told and retold for more than 2,500 years—though never quite like this.
Welcome the next entry in the fabulously received and brilliantly created ALL-ACTION CLASSICS series. The brainchild of former Marvel Comics artist Ben Caldwell, these graphic novels are the freshest, coolest approach to the classics ever. Each one takes a famous work of fiction and translates it into a kid-friendly comic book narrative–with full-color illustrations and a fast-paced tone that will have even reluctant readers flying through.Shipwrecks, angry gods, magical lands, beautiful nymphs, and siren songs: this vivid retelling of Homer’s legendary Greek epic follows Odysseus on his long, arduous journey home from Ithaca after the fall of Troy. Done in comic-book style, it features the highest-energy kid-grabbing details and plot twists, all dramatized in brilliant, action-packed images. It’s the perfect way to introduce kids and fans of graphic novels to one of literature’s great works.
In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. Or at least that’s what he told his son. Faced with the prospect of his father’s death, William Bloom sets about to discover who the man really is. Daniel Wallace’s magical first novel, Big Fish, is told as a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts that William knows. Through these tall tales-hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous-William begins to understand his elusive father’s great feats and great failings.
The movie, Big Fish, has long been among my favorites, but I’ve never read the novel it’s based on, short as it is. For this one, I’ll likely be doing a book vs. movie assessment–I have a feeling it may be one of those rare cases (like Stardust or The Princess Bride) where the movie is better than the book.
My first encounter with a physical copy of The Road was when I was shoving junk aside in a friend’s backseat to sit down. I picked it up, and for the first time it occurred to me that Cormac McCarthy was an author I should probably be reading, because if said friend enjoyed him, so would I. Years later, I’ve only read No Country For Old Men. Clearly it’s time to listen to this.
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, one that I’m sad to admit I haven’t read from in a few years. I was thrilled to realize she has given Odysseus’s wife, Penelope a voice. I’ll be listening to this one as well.
Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.
In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope–wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy–is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and–curiously–twelve of her maids.
In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality–and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.
My third audio selection, Cold Mountain is a book that has been sitting on the shelves in my parent’s house for years, but I never personally picked it up other than to look at the pretty cover (um…not this cover pictured, yuck for movie tie-in covers). I did see the movie, but honestly I don’t remember it well, so I’m excited for some historical fiction.
Cold Mountain is an extraordinary novel about a soldier’s perilous journey back to his beloved at the end of the Civil War. Both a magnificent love story and a harrowing account of one man’s long walk home, this is a book by a major new talent that has touched the hearts of readers everywhere. Inman is a wounded soldier who walks away from the ravages of the war and back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. Inman’s odyssey through the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada’s struggle to survive her father’s death and the loss of his income by reviving the family farm in the Cold Mountain community where she is an outsider. Based on a story handed down in Frazier’s own family, Cold Mountain is a beautifully-written and haunting novel of love and loss.
I’ve had my eye on this one since it came up as a nominee for the Andre Norton Award. Yay for some Odyssey retellings for younger readers!
When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.
With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?
Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love
The final retelling I’m planning to read is also for younger readers, and will conveniently be released just before Classics Retold takes place!
Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.
In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.
Of course, I’ll also be watching Cold Mountain again, and another favorite of mine, O Brother, Where Art Thou?