“The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose” -Margaret Atwood
"The word is the making of the world." - Wallace Stevens
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Penelopiad-Margaret Atwood
I love Margaret Atwood. I read The Handmaid's Tale as a teenager and was hooked on her instantly. The Blind Assassin, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, Surfacing, Wilderness Tips, Oryx and Crake, I have read and reread and loved them all. I was running late this morning and grabbed the first random book off the shelf on my way out the door to make sure I'd have reading material at work. Lo and behold, it was The Penelopiad. I managed to finish it before I left work. This reread made me want to eat my words in my last post; the reworking of certain stories certainly can work and work well. And, I admit, I love the chance to hear a woman character's side of the story when she's been left out. Sorry for being a doubting Thomas, Mr. Maguire, I loved your Elphaba too. Penelope's voice is loud and clear in Atwood's novella. And it's just so damn satisfying to hear her address the double standard present in The Odyssey. There's Odysseus, off fighting, adventuring, and philandering with goddesses, sirens, and who knows who else. And there's patient, clever Penelope, fending off aggressive suitors, raising a rebellious Telemachus, maintaining the homeplace in Ithaca, and expected to stay chaste and faithful to her whore of a husband, even when she has no certainty that he is actually going to return to her. I definitely don't have that kind of patience myself; after almost 2 years, I'm still trying not to be annoyed by my boyfriend's lifetime subscription to Playboy in our bathroom. As you can see, we like very different...um...reading material. But I'll take that over him running off to rescue Helen of Troy anytime. And speaking of clever, Ms. Atwood brilliantly uses the Greek dramatic technique of the chorus to help Penelope's Maids tell their story. I can't WAIT to get my butt over to Borders to use my gift card and get me a copy of The Year of the Flood!