Friday, June 5, 2009

Classics Reading List

So, after half a year of reading tripe escapist books, I've cleared out my palate for some heavier dining. I'm trying to dig through some primary source texts on classic mythology. I read the first six books of Ovid's Metamorphoses a couple nights ago. Some of the stories in there are surprisingly captivating. All the chasing of virgin maidens to "ravish" (aka, rape) them gets old after awhile, but then every so often there will be a story like Echo and Narcissus or Phaethon (a story I wasn't familiar with before, about the Sun's son who borrows his dad's sun-weilding chariot and lights the whole world on fire) that are just amazingly written and captivating, even by today's standards. And the blood and gore scenes too - like when Perseus slaughters all the men who come to fight him at his own wedding feast with Andromeda - seems bloodier and gorier than a lot of other things I read. The men are slipping in the blood-drenched floors, skulls are crushed on stone, it's intense.

I picked up these other classic texts at HalfPrice today:

Ten Plays - Euripides
The Aeneid - Virgil
Theogony; Works and Days - Hesiod
The Homeric Hymns - ascribed to Homer

All of these mention Persephone, or talk about visits to the Underworld. I want to both read the Persephone stories from the sources, as well as get a feel for how the Underworld was envisioned. In general, it's much more horrible than I've written it so far in my novel. Ovid's version of Persephone is your classic chase and rape tale, though there are a couple of twists (like Cupid shooting Hades while the latter is inspecting Titans chained under a volcano because Aphrodite was pissed at Hades for something). And later, during Orpheus' story, in his plea for Eurydice to come back from the dead, he says to Persephone, "you too were joined in love" and this great line, "reweave, I implore, the fate unwound too fast".

I've briefly read "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter" before, but now I'll have it in book form. From what I've heard of Hesiod, he offers a more moral version of the pantheon. In the Aeneid, Aeneus spends a portion of his tale traveling through the Underworld to go visit his father and Tieresias (speaking of, I also found out how he got blinded! He's always just the "blind oracle", like in Oedipus, but Ovid tells how he got blinded, by pissing off Hera when he made her lose a bet. Hera's always getting enraged by one thing or other, and damn, she can get scary. I think she's the scariest character in the Metamorphoses).

So most of these I've read bits and pieces of online here and there, but I'm hoping to sit down and really soak them in and underline and highlight - basically, study them. Studying the books I want to be studying - what a novel thought! I love the freedom to do and read and study what I want.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos on tackling Ovid's Metamorphoses. It is a beast of a book. My husband had to read excerpts of it, and the beautiful brick has been sitting on the bookshelf since. Perhaps I should dust it off and try to wrestle with it as well. Have you read any Greek or Roman poetry? It has a wonderful atmosphere to it. I really enjoy Sappho's love poems.