January 28th, 2015

kitty, reading

Books #3-4

Book #3 was "The Penelopiad" by Margaret Atwood, a retelling of the Odyesseus myth/The Odyssey from the viewpoint of Odysseus's patient and loyal wife Penelope, who is writing after death from the Fields of Asphodel in the Greek Underworld. Atwood says in the introduction that she was always bothered by the fact that Penelope's 12 maids were hanged when Odysseus got home for being "disloyal" and the dead 12 maidens get to tell their side of things as well. Not too surprisingly, this is a feminist retelling of the story, and Atwood brings in other source material to flesh out Penelope's background. There were moments I was laughing and a few moments I was flinching at anachronisms, but again, Penelope is supposed to be writing from the underworld, where she has seen the many centuries pass since her death. It was fun reading this at about the same time I'm working my way through Rick Riordan's "Heroes of Olympus" series, since a lot of the Greek myths and characters get recycled in and updated in both. This isn't my favorite Atwood book but I did like it and am glad I read it.

Book #4 was "Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston. I'd read her novel "TripMaster Monkey His Fake Book" in 2011 and enjoyed it, though I found the plot to be pretty minimal - it's a bit of a shaggy dog story. "Woman Warrior" is called a memoir but it's more like a collection of essays about growing up, interspersed with interesting Chinese folk tales, which she often ties to her own life and what she learns about her cultural heritage. The book was really nothing like I expected but it pulled me in right away with the first story of the author's aunt, who committed suicide because she'd brought shame to the family, and so the family wasn't ever supposed to talk about her. Toward the end, she describes and incident where she, a shy and quiet but good student, taunts and harasses another quiet Chinese girl in her school, and while it was painful to read, it also had the ring of truth, regarding the way a child who is socially marginalized with pick on a child who is even further out of the center. An excellent read and I'll be searching for more by this author.

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