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xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths

by Kate Bernheimer (Editor)

Other authors: Brian Aldiss (Contributor), David B. (Contributor), Lutz Bassmann (Contributor), Aimee Bender (Contributor), Kate Bernheimer (Contributor)46 more, Sarah Blackman (Contributor), Kelly Braffet (Contributor), Edward Carey (Contributor), Maile Chapman (Contributor), Georges-Oliver Châteaureynaud (Contributor), Ron Currie, Jr. (Contributor), Kathryn Davis (Contributor), Manuela Draeger (Contributor), Elanor Dymott (Contributor), Elizabeth Evans (Contributor), Max Gladstone (Contributor), Sheila Heti (Contributor), Laird Hunt (Contributor), Aamer Hussein (Contributor), Shane Jones (Contributor), Heidi Julavits (Contributor), Owen King (Contributor), Victor LaValle (Contributor), Michael Jeffrey Lee (Contributor), Ben Loory (Contributor), Anthony Marra (Contributor), Zachary Mason (Contributor), Elizabeth McCracken (Contributor), Maile Meloy (Contributor), Madeline Miller (Contributor), Ander Monson (Contributor), Manuel Muñoz (Contributor), Sabina Murray (Contributor), Sigrid Nunez (Contributor), Gina Ochsner (Contributor), Donají Olmedo (Contributor), Edith Pearlman (Contributor), Benjamin Percy (Contributor), Dawn Raffel (Contributor), Imad Rahman (Contributor), Kit Reed (Contributor), Davis Schneiderman (Contributor), Aurelie Sheehan (Contributor), Johanna Skibsrud (Contributor), Emma Straub (Contributor), Peter Straub (Contributor), Laura van den Berg (Contributor), Willy Vlautin (Contributor), Joy Williams (Contributor), Kevin Wilson (Contributor), Karen Tei Yamashita (Contributor)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
242494,879 (3.68)1
Fifty leading writers retell myths from around the world in this follow-up to the bestselling My mother she killed me, my father he ate me. "Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse--his cremains in a bullet. Here ... are your favorite mythological figures--Daedalus and Icarus, Narcissus and Echo, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pygmalion and Galatea, even Argos, Odysseus's faithful dog--alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, Aztec, and other traditions"--Page 4 of cover.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Overall I can't say I liked this collection as much as My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, but it included some truly stellar stories, including The Sisters by Sabina Murray; Devourings by Aimee Bender; Galatea by Madeline Miller; and Belle-Medusa by Manuela Drageur; and likely a few others neglected because I started this book in October and proceeded to spend half a year returning to it.

( )
  eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
Summary: Most people think of myths in terms of the ancient world, gods and goddesses and togas and warriors and great beasts. But mythology speaks to us as much today as it did to people back then, and the stories and the lessons that it contains are just as applicable to our modern world. This book asks authors to retell or re-imagine their favorite myth, recasting ancient gods and heroes in their roles in the modern world, and creating new myths in the process, new forms for the old stories.

Review: I love mythology, and stories that use mythology in new ways. (Witness: 2012/2013's binge on Rick Riordan's books.) We read D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths in 6th grade and I begged my parents to buy me my own copy and I never looked back. (I've gone as mythological figures for several Halloween, although that's partly because it's easy to re-accessorize your basic toga for a whole new costume.) The old stories still have power for me, and I love authors that can harness that power and use it to make something new. So this book should have been a lock for me, but in trying to make the stories new and modern and dark and edgy, I felt like a lot of the stories really lost something - whatever it is about the myths that I connected to in the first place.

So in her introduction to this book, Bernheimer says that in the modern age, when humans have powers that can rival those of the gods, our myths "reveal a gaping anxiety, a primal fear, leading to sadness about what we have done." I see where she's coming from with that, even if I'm not sure that I believe it, and it's true that it's certainly reflective of the stories in this collection. But I found the unrelenting bleakness of so many of the stories in this book kind of disheartening, and disquieting, and it made this book not entirely satisfying, and often times hard to want to go back to and read more.

There were some stories I really liked. Several stories in this volume re-imagine Persephone as a child shuffling between divorced parents, and two of them really stood out for me. "Demeter", by Maile Meloy, was my favorite in the collection by far. I'm not quite sure why it struck me the way that it did - I'm not a mother, let alone a divorced mother with shared custody who has to give my child up for half the year. But the characters in this one were vivid, the imagery was beautiful, and it was one of the few stories that left the reader with at least a spark of hope. "Lost Lake", by Emma Straub and Peter Straub, was another of my favorites; it also used the child of divorced parents as a basis but focused more of the experience of Persephone in the Underworld. I also really enjoyed "What Wants My Son", by Kevin Wilson. It was one of the more literal "bring the ancient gods and demigods (in this case, Helios and Phaeton) into the modern world" re-tellings, and as such sort of reminded me of Riordan, but it felt honest and like it had some sense of humor about itself. Several of the other stories - "Modern Coyote" by Shane Jones (a trickster/Coyote story), "Killcrop" by Victore LaValle (changelings), "Slaves" by Elizabeth Evans (Maenads), and "Sissy" by Kit Reed (a combination of Sisyphus and Oedipus) - were all very well done, and very effective, but too disquieting to say that I exactly enjoyed them. "The Status of Myth" by Kelly Braffet and Owen King had some really beautiful moments, but didn't quite come together for me (even though I recognize that it was supposed to be disjointed.) Two of the shorter pieces, "Argos" by Joy Williams and "So Many-Headed Gates" by Sheila Heti were both quite lovely.

There were also stories that didn't work for me. The stories that I had the hardest time with, and frequently wound up skimming or skipping, were those that were translated from other languages (mostly French). Maybe something got lost in translation, or maybe modernist French literature is just not for me, but these stories were just not my cup of tea. In general, those stories that tried to be the most "literary", the most experimental with the language or the story style or the story concept, were usually my least favorites. As I said in my review of My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, I like stories that focus on telling a good story, and that's especially true when the inspiration is fairy tales, or mythology - two forms where the universality and the power of the story itself is what should be the star of the show. And in this book, a number of the stories got there, but too many of them didn't for the collection as a whole to really bowl me over. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I think people who read more contemporary "literary" fiction than I do may have a better time with this collection than I did. It's an interesting idea, but the final product wasn't quite what I'd hoped it would be. ( )
1 vote fyrefly98 | Jan 17, 2014 |
I did not have high hopes for this, as I'd only read books by two of the authors, and didn't like either one of them. Still, this is a decent (though overlong) collection of stories inspired, however vaguely, by mythology from all over the world. Like all anthologies, there are some fantastic tales (The Sisters by Sabina Murray and The Last Flight of Daedelus by Anthony Marra are particular favorites), some truly dreadful ones, and a bunch that are just okay. The trouble with anthologies is that so many people who write short stories forget to include the story part: it's just a bunch of descriptive passages with nothing ever actually happening. I would not have complained had the selection here been trimmed down a bit, but I understand the appeal of a nice round number like fifty. I also question the decision to order the tales by myth, meaning for example that all the Icarus tales were next to each other. Of course, this was not consistent: the story inspired by Demeter & Persephone was near the beginning, while the one just about Persephone came much later. I most appreciated the afterwords provided by each author or translator, explaining the connection to their chosen myth (or with mythology in general, as some chose to do). In short, I found this to be an interesting literary experiment, if not to my particular taste. Do not pick it up expecting modern retellings of classic myths. Instead, think of it as a general anthology with mythological elements thrown in. ( )
  melydia | Nov 5, 2013 |
Today, I have to write a review I don’t really want to. See, there are negative reviews and negative reviews. Sometimes a negative review is really satisfying, because the book was, at least by your own estimation, perfectly horrid and/or rage-inducing. Times like today, though, the book is quite good in its own way, but that doesn’t happen to be a way that coincides so much with your taste. I always feel so bad when this happens with a review book, because I feel like I should have known better than to accept it, but you really can’t always know these things. Anyway, from as objective a standpoint as I can get to, xo Orpheus is a great read for scholarly folks, with stories that can be unpacked and considered, but which consisted largely of stories which do not work for me personally.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Oct 14, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernheimer, KateEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aldiss, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
B., DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bassmann, LutzContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bender, AimeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bernheimer, KateContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blackman, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Braffet, KellyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carey, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chapman, MaileContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Châteaureynaud, Georges-OliverContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Currie, Ron, Jr.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, KathrynContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Draeger, ManuelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dymott, ElanorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Evans, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gladstone, MaxContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heti, SheilaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hunt, LairdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hussein, AamerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, ShaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Julavits, HeidiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, OwenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
LaValle, VictorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, Michael JeffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Loory, BenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Marra, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mason, ZacharyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCracken, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Meloy, MaileContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, MadelineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monson, AnderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muñoz, ManuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Murray, SabinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nunez, SigridContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ochsner, GinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Olmedo, DonajíContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pearlman, EdithContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Percy, BenjaminContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Raffel, DawnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rahman, ImadContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reed, KitContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schneiderman, DavisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sheehan, AurelieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Skibsrud, JohannaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Straub, EmmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Straub, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
van den Berg, LauraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vlautin, WillyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Williams, JoyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, KevinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Yamashita, Karen TeiContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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What is the deepest loss that you have suffered? If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine. -from Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29 Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell
Dedication
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In the modern characterization of Orpheus, culled from diverging stories of antiquity, Orpheus is the best musician of all time--let's make that the greatest artist.
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Fifty leading writers retell myths from around the world in this follow-up to the bestselling My mother she killed me, my father he ate me. "Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse--his cremains in a bullet. Here ... are your favorite mythological figures--Daedalus and Icarus, Narcissus and Echo, Orpheus and Eurydice, Pygmalion and Galatea, even Argos, Odysseus's faithful dog--alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, Aztec, and other traditions"--Page 4 of cover.

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Anthology Contains:
  • Introduction / Kate Bernheimer
  • Anthropogenesis and Norse Creation Myth: Anthropogenesis, or: How to Make a Family / Laura van den Berg
  • Argos: Argos / Joy Williams
  • Bacchantes: The Sisters / Sabina Murray
  • Baucis and Philemon: Sawdust / Edward Carey
  • Brownies: Friend Robin / Maile Chapman
  • The Caliph Of One Thousand and One Nights: The Veiled Prophet / David B.
  • Candaules and Gyges, as Told By Herodotus: Henry and Booboo / Elanor Dymott
  • Coyote Myths: Modern Coyote / Shane Jones
  • Cronos: Devourings / Aimee Bender
  • Daedalus: Labyrinth / Ron Currie, Jr.
  • Daedalus: The Last Flight of Daedalus / Anthony Marra
  • Daphne: Daphne / Dawn Raffel
  • Demeter: Demeter / Maile Meloy
  • Demeter and Persephone: Kid Collins / Willy Vlautin
  • Eris: Sleeping Beauty / Gina Ochsner
  • Galatea and Pygmalion: Galatea / Madeline Miller
  • God and Satan: The Hand / Manuel Munoz
  • Golem and Pygmalion: The Dummy / Benjamin Percy
  • Hades: The Girl with the Talking Shadow / Kale Bernheimer
  • Human Pentachromats: Wait and See / Edith Pearlman
  • Icarus: An Occasional Icarus / Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud
  • Killcrop: Killcrop / Victor LaValle
  • The Kraken: The Squid Who Fell in Love with the Sun / Ben Loory
  • Lamia/Child-Eating Demon, Greek: Birdsong from the Radio / Elizabeth McCracken
  • The Lotus Eaters: The Lotus Eaters / Aurelie Sheehan
  • The Maenads and Sinbad The Sailor: Slaves / Elizabeth Evans
  • Mahabharata: Drona's Death / Max Gladstone
  • Monsters: So Many-Headed Gates / Sheila Heti
  • Edith Hamilton's Mythology: The Status of Myth / Kelly Braffet and Owen King
  • Narcissus: Narcissus / Zachary Mason
  • Odysseus: Back to Blandon / Michael Jeffrey Lee
  • Odysseus: The Story I Am Speaking to You Now / Davis Schneiderman
  • Oedipus: The Brigadier-General Takes His Final Stand, by James Butt / Imad Rahman
  • Orpheus and Eurydice: Dark Resort / Heidi Julavits
  • Paradise: Mystery Spot: 95065 / Karen Tei Yamashita
  • Persephone: Lost Lake / Emma Straub and Peter Straub
  • Phaeton, From Ovid's Metamorphoses: What Wants My Son / Kevin Wilson
  • Poseidon: Thousand / Laird Hunt
  • Post-Apocalypse: Belle-Medusa / Manuela Draeger
  • Raja Rasalu: The Swan's Wife / Aamer Hussein
  • Sedna, Inuit: Sanna / Kathryn Davis
  • Sirin: Madame Liang / Lutz Bassmann
  • Sisyphus: Sissy / Kit Reed
  • The Strix: In a Structure Simulating an Owl / Ander Monson
  • Tezcatlipoca: Cat's Eye / Donaji Olmedo
  • Transformation: Betrayal / Sigrid Nunez
  • Trojan Horse: A Horse, a Vine / Johanna Skibsrud
  • The Unconscious: The Hungers of an Old Language / Brian Aldiss
  • Zeus and Europa, After the D'Aulaires: The White Horse / Sarah Blackman
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