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The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel by…
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The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel (2010)

by Zachary Mason

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5562517,948 (4.14)69
  1. 61
    The Odyssey by Homer (slickdpdx)
  2. 20
    Ransom by David Malouf (jbvm)
  3. 10
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood (alalba, jeanned)
    alalba: Both books offer alternative versions of the Odyssey.
  4. 00
    Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Like The Lost Books Of The Odyssey, Sum uses very short pieces to explore different facets of the same idea - in this case, the afterlife.
  5. 00
    Siegfried und Krimhild by Jürgen Lodemann (spiphany)
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English (24)  French (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
The author has done an excellent job in his take on the Iliad and Odyssey [mostly the Odyssey]. He feels that the Odyssey that has come down to us is not complete and he's discovered 'lost books'. Well, I'd more accurately call them vignettes or sketches; each is from only 1 page to 6 pages long. Each one gives an unusual twist to an episode from the Odyssey. The whole work is analogous to a piece of music: Odysseus is the connecting theme, or link; and each vignette is a variation on one of the adventures. Each piece is either narrated by Odysseus or Odysseus has a leading role. Time span covered is Odysseus growing up, Iliad, Odyssey, and, Odysseus after a period of years. Some vignettes are better than others, but they all show originality and creativity.

Some of my favorites:
"Myrmidon Golem": Since Achilles has been killed before the Trojan War, Odysseus creates a Golem-Achilles out of clay--shades of Frankenstein's monster, anyone?
"Blindness": the point of view of the cyclops Odysseus has blinded and the monster's fate.
"Iliad of Odysseus": Odysseus considers himself the author and feels the stories were passed down through the years until Homer claimed authorship.
"Sirens": Odysseus' reaction to hearing the sirens' song.
"Long way back": Ariadne, abandoned on Naxos, in another guise, meets Odysseus.
"Last islands": Years later, Odysseus returns to Troy, which has been rebuilt and has become a tourist trap.

I will never view any Homer in the same light again after reading this novel. The author wrote very imaginatively and very vividly. Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Nov 12, 2014 |
Imagine Robert Graves' "Homer's Daughter" reduced to 5 pages. Now imagine 43 variants along the same lines with 20 of them written Calvino (including one on returning to Troy to discover it has been turned into a cheap tourist destination), 20 of them written by Borges (including several in which Odysseus is a character is his own or someone else's story), two by Vidal (one in which cyclops was basically decent and after he was tricked by Odysseus who then flees, the cyclops fantasizes stories of his wandering for the next decade, not wanting to kill him in his fantasies but to string out the revenge), and a final one by Lewis Carroll (in which the Iliad and the Odyssey are both manuals for strange forms of chess that have morphed and been corrupted over time).

If you cannot imagine all of those, then you should just read the book -- about 35 of the 44 inversions/reimaginations/retellings of aspects of the Odyssey are amazing, both in the way they are told and the new worlds they open up. And the effect of the book as a whole is powerful, reinforcing certain themes over and over again (like Odysseus basic character) while varying others (like the cause and resolution of the Trojan War). ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
This book isn't a novel, despite what the cover may say. It seems the term novel is a bit of a marketing ploy, a trick which seems particularly apt for a book about Odysseus.

This book is a collection of reimagined stories based around the events of the Odyssey. Odysseus is the only connecting element in each of these stories, but it's still not enough to call this a novel.

The early stories are a little slow and not nearly as entertaining and engaging as the later stories. What is remarkable is the tone of Mason's writing, it is at times very Homeric, and this I consider an accomplishment.

If you are remotely interested in the Homeric cycle or Greek myth then you will find something of interest in this book. If you are not a hellenophile this book could be the ember needed to begin reading the classics. ( )
  dtn620 | Sep 22, 2013 |
Uneven. There are some gorgeous moments, and some that I'm going to want to go back to and chew over, but the pieces don't hang together at all — there's no justification whatsoever to call this a novel, to my mind — and yet they aren't dramatically different enough from each other to feel like independent universes on their own. Neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring, as Meg Murry says. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
The Lost Books Of The Odyssey consists of 44 short pieces, ranging in length from half a page to a dozen pages. They are all variants in some way of the stories of the Iliad and Odyssey - some of them change only one thing (Odysseus returns home to find Penelope married, or dead), others have no relation to the original other than the name of a character or two. One draws from the Persephone myth - Helen has been kidnapped by Death and the Greeks must fight an army that grows each time they lose one of their number. In another, Odysseus realises that Helen's secret is that each man sees in her their ideal of beauty - except for Menelaus, who wants her because others desire her, and who in his turn is desired by Penelope - and manages a crafty switch so that he himself ends up with Helen.

Quite a lot of them play with the origin of the Odyssey - in one, Odysseus is a coward who takes advantage of the war to escape his princely role, becomes a travelling bard and tells stories to glorify his role; in another, the blinded cyclops takes a sort of revenge on Odysseus by inventing all the difficulties of his homeward voyage, although he can't quite bring himself to kill off his creation. One even suggests that the Iliad is a manual for a complicated form of chess, with all the battle stories essentially tactical tips.

There are also several stories about forgetfulness, whether due to witchcraft or old age. I think my favourite story was the very last one, in which an elderly Odysseus retraces his steps back to Troy, finding that all the nymphs and monsters have gone, and that Troy itself is a tourist destination where actors replay key battles and the stalls sell imitation armour.

I love things like this, and there are many clever ideas in this book. Overall though I found it a little underwhelming. Last year I really enjoyed a book called Sum, which featured similarly short variations on a theme, which in Sum's case was the afterlife. But I quite often find myself thinking about some of the stories in Sum, because some of them illustrate quite profound points. While I enjoyed The Lost Books Of The Odyssey, I don't think the stories will stay with me so long.

When he was drunk Achilles would take his knife and try to pierce his hand or, if he was very drunk, his heart, and thereby were the delicate blades of many daggers broken. Odysseus, who had seen more than one such demonstration, rained praise on him for his extraordinary mettle, which made Achilles bridle like a puppy, but privately worried that a man immune to death must soon despise the mortals around him. ( )
4 vote wandering_star | Nov 4, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Yet in The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason has achieved something remarkable. He's written a first novel that is not just vibrantly original but also an insightful commentary on Homer's epic and its lasting hold on our imagination.
added by jlelliott | editSlate, John Swansberg (Feb 18, 2010)
 
"Mr. Mason's clean and engaging prose ensures that his variations on the Odyssey never feel like sterile experiments."
 
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, to my surprise, a wonderful book. I had expected it to be rather preening, and probably thin. But it is intelligent, absorbing, wonderfully written, and perhaps the most revelatory and brilliant prose encounter with Homer since James Joyce.
 

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Odysseus comes back to Ithaca in a little boat on a clear day.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Odysseus, lost 
in his story. Ithaca?
Penelope? Home?            [yalliejane]

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374192154, Hardcover)

A BRILLIANT AND BEGUILING REIMAGINING OF ONE OF OUR GREATEST MYTHS BY A GIFTED YOUNG WRITER

Zachary Mason’s brilliant and beguiling debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homer’s classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With brilliant prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homer’s original that taken together open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:02 -0400)

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A brilliant and beguiling reimagining of Homer's classic story about the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy.

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