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The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel by…

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

by Zachary Mason

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6132615,886 (4.11)73
  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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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason is one of the more fascinating books to come out recently. Subtitled “a novel,” the book is better treated as a series of explorations into the hidden sub-strata of Homer’s original Iliad and Odyssey. Sometimes these are counterfactuals, sometimes these are sketches of other details, and yet others recombine elements in very interesting ways. The cumulative effect strangely highlights how much the elements of Homer’s epics have wormed their way into our modern psyche, illustrates what is still strange about these old works of art.

The most poignant and affecting parts of the book, for me, are the recurrences again and again of the strange link between Odysseus and Athena. They’re of two separate worlds - doomed to forever remain at arm’s length - yet deeply kindred spirits, in ways that only become apparent after reading dozens of Mason’s tales. What seem at first to be formal exercises become feats of empathy and imagination, and the book practically begs to be read in a single sitting.

Very recommended, especially if you’re interested in the originals or Jorge Luis Borges. ( )
1 vote gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
Great book. Like a master jazz musician riffing on a theme. Didn't try to replace or modernize the Odyssey, but filled in gaps and told alternative versions. I felt like I was sitting in front of fire on a little Greek greek island while a master storyteller wove his tales. ( )
  bpagano | Oct 3, 2015 |
This book is either hit or miss. If you absolutely love takes on classic literature, this would be a great read. But if you absolutely love classic Greek literature, I'd recommend passing on this one.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey seemed like a promising title. The tile instantly caught my attention, since I'm well aware that only The Iliad and The Odyssey are the only two surviving texts by Homer to this day. The rest of his work…who knows what happened to them? So intrigued I was when I picked up this book.

It's really a series of short stories that cater to the original story of The Odyssey. I'll admit that I did find some of them quite interesting, especially the tales that centered around the secondary characters from the original: Circe, Calypso, Polyphemos, Achilles (well, he was central in the Iliad I suppose), and so on. I also enjoyed the last story with Odysseus reflecting on his life and his tales, and even him wondering if it was all true, or something he just exaggerated in his late life. But frankly, this is only about 25% that I enjoyed. The rest, I think I could survive without having read them.

Like I said, if you're a purist and love classic literature, then stick with the originals. But if you like fresh, contemporary takes on classic work, then perhaps give this one a try. You might end up liking it. ( )
  jms001 | Jun 14, 2015 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (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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Haiku summary
Odysseus, lost 
in his story. Ithaca?
Penelope? Home?            [yalliejane]

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374192154, Hardcover)


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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:00 -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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