Monday, December 1, 2008

The Greek Myths, Volume Two

Recently Acquired:
The Greek Myths, Volume Two
by Robert Graves
Penguin Books
Baltimore (1955)

412 pages
Price: ninety-nine cents

I found this gem my second time through the tiny Literature section at Goodwill. It’s fifty-three years old, yellowed to perfection, and still in sound condition. There’s even a map “showing sites mentioned in text” inside the back cover that folds out to a size equivalent to eight pages. On the back cover is a short biography of the prolific poet, translator, and novelist Robert Graves, who “lives in Majorca, Spain, except in times of war” and “has eight children, one of whom was killed in his old regiment in Burma in 1943; another is Jenny Nicholson, the well-known foreign correspondent.”

From inside the front cover: Not for over a century, since Smith’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology first appeared, has the attempt been made to provide for the English reader a complete ‘mythology’, in the sense of a retelling in modern terms of the Greek tales of Gods and heroes. In the two volumes of this book Robert Graves, whose combination of classical scholarship and anthropological competence has already been so brilliantly demonstrated in The White Goddess and Hercules, My Shipmate, and the other novels, supplies the need. In nearly two hundred sections, it covers the Creation myths, the legends of the birth and lives of the great Olympians, the Theseus, Oedipus, and Heracles cycles, the Argonaut voyage, the tale of Troy, and much else.

All the scattered elements of each myth have been assembled into a harmonious narrative, and many variants are recorded which may help to determine its ritual and historical meaning. Full references to the classical sources, and copious indices, make the book as valuable to the scholar as to the general reader; and a full commentary to each myth explains and interprets the classical version in the light of to-day’s archaeological and anthropological knowledge.

Elsewhere: My thanks to Lola Koundakjian, founder and curator of the Armenian Poetry Project, for sharing news of my recent publication in Artasahmanyan Grakanutyun.

This entry, minus the image, added to And I Quote.

As the Conversation continues, Winston takes a rather harsh tone with his grandmother, then offers to clean her glasses.


vazambam said...

A great find--now all you have to do is find its companion piece, Volume One, published in the same year--indispensable reference books for just about everyone; I'm fortunate in having both volumes--found Volume Two first--then had to wait over ten years before stumbling upon Volume One in a wonderful used book store in Hood River,Oregon about ten years ago.

William Michaelian said...

What luck! Say, that gives me an idea: we could host a reunion for Volumes One and Two, and all the books could get together and swap stories.

“I was in a trunk for thirteen years.”

“I’ve been in Paris.”

“Well, la-de-da.”

“They were going to bury me with my owner, but at the last minute they decided to put in a stupid book of poems instead.”