The Penelopiad - Margaret Atwood The Penelopiad isn’t bad but there’s little to engage the reader. Atwood throws up myriad ways to reinterpret Penelope’s role in the legends of Odysseus but doesn’t take them anywhere. It’s only toward the end that we see where this could have gone when the two are canoodling in Odysseus’s famous bed after his return:

After a little time had passed and we were feeling pleased with each other, we took up our old habits of story-telling. Odysseus told me of all his travels and difficulties – the nobler versions with the monsters and the goddesses, rather than the more sordid ones with the innkeepers and whores. He recounted the many lies he’d invented, the false names he’d given himself… and the fraudulent life histories he’d concocted for himself…. In my turn, I related the tale of the Suitors, and my trick with the shroud of Laertes, and my deceitful encouraging of the Suitors, and the skillful ways in which I’d misdirected them and led them on and played them off against one another.

Then he told me of how much he’d missed me, and how he’d been filled with longing for me even when enfolded in the white arms of goddesses; and I told him how very many tears I’d shed while waiting twenty years for his return, and how tediously faithful I’d been, and how I would never have even so much as thought of betraying his gigantic bed with its wondrous bedpost by sleeping in it with any other man.

The two of us were – by our own admission – proficient and shameless liars of long standing. It’s a wonder either one of us believed a word the other said.

But we did.

Or so we told each other. (pp. 172-3)


Atwood’s a good writer, however, so reading it while working on this Fourth of July holiday made the time pass far more enjoyably than otherwise. And I do like modern or revisionist interpretations of old myths (e.g., Christa Wolf's Medea, John Gardner's Jason and Medeia or any entry in Robert Graves's The Greek Myths: Combined Edition).