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Books > Swashbuckling Tales from the Greek Myths September 30, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Books Life.
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Book review: Gods and Swaggering Heroes: Swashbuckling Tales from the Greek Myths

This is a very funny book about the Classical Greek Outback 3,000 years ago. Where we Australians have bunyips, rainbow serpents and Min Min lights, the Greeks had nymphs, flying horses, gods in winged chariots, monsters with six heads and sphinxes.

The average Australian thinks that the classical Greek myths are only for white-bearded scholars and academic eggheads. This need not be so. The myths are the greatest fantasy stories ever told and here they are presented with comedy and suspense and down-to-earth language by short story writer David Myers.

When I first read Glorious Gods and Swaggering Heroes I was reminded of the controversy following the publication of Robert Graves’s I Claudius, which immediately became a best seller. The surest way to infuriate the critical or the academic establishment is to write a best seller on a topic which those two institutions regard as their exclusive domain.

In writing Glorious Gods and Swaggering Heroes, David Myers demonstrates the breadth of his learning and the facility and the versatility of his writing. This book joins a veritable caravan of works by him: essays on English and German; numerous editorial contributions to other books; the picaresque semi-autobiographical novel, Benjamin Blauenblum; other novels including Cornucopia County; anthologies of short stories; Mudmaps to Paradise; the Secret Sins of the Suburban Swaggy; as well as many learned papers and monographs.

Gods and Swaggering Heroes presents Greek mythology in a readily accessible and easily readable form. The presentation is informed and enhanced by David’s broad general knowledge and deep readings of history and philosophy. As he says in his introduction, “Myths are retold because they mean different things to each new generation.”

He adds, “Think, for example, of Jean Paul Sartre’s atheistic satire on Zeus’s cruel authoritarianism in his play The Flies, or of existentialism’s championing of Prometheus and Sisyphus as the champions of enthusiasm against the Olympian gods. My awareness of these philosophical clashes has shaped the ambivalence and irony with which I re-tell the myths.”

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