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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

The Lost Books of the Odyssey

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The Lost Books of the Odyssey Cover

ISBN13: 9780374192150
ISBN10: 0374192154
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. The novels preface, delivered in the voice of a classics scholar, states that the forty-four variations “omit stock epic formulae in favor of honing a single trope or image down to an extreme of clarity.” How would you define that single trope? Which of the novels recurring images do you consider to be the most haunting?

2. The opening segment captures the power of the gods to inflict harm and to obscure reality. How do the characters respond to a world in which everyday life might be a mere illusion? Should we feel confident in reality?

3. How would you characterize the bond between Athena and Odysseus? What power do they wield over each other? What is unique about Zachary Masons approach to the relationships between gods and mortals? 

4. Discuss the many versions of Telemachus presented in The Lost Books of the Odyssey. What facets of father-son relationships are presented?

5. What accounts for the endurance of tales related to the Trojan War? Why might the author have included a passage devoted to Alexander, and a medieval chapter (“Record of a Game”)? How does Masons approach compare to recent films inspired by Homers epics?

6. Consider the Odyssean aspects of reading this novel. How did you experience the multiple “guides” who led your journey? Which narrators did you prefer? What is the effect of the footnotes, and the premise that these chapters are translated from “pre-Ptolemaic papyrus excavated from the desiccated rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus”?

7. What do Penelope and Helen each reveal about the nature of marriage? How devoted would you have been to your husband if you had been dealt the fate of these women?

8. What images of Homer himself are presented within the text? How might he have reacted to Masons inventions?

9. How does Agamemnons rule as king compare to that of contemporary political and military leaders?

10. What truths about aging and wisdom are presented in the novel? How does the author balance a modern approach with the ancient mind-set of Troys defeat and its aftermath?

11. The author applied his expertise as a computer scientist to the broad structure of the novel. What other twenty-first-century techniques are evident? What was lost and gained by cultures whose storytelling mostly consisted of lyric poetry in an oral tradition?

12. Discuss the many versions of warriors who are presented in the novel, including Achilless appearance as a golem killing machine. How did ancient societies define “hero”? Does the Homeric impetus for war—a manifestation of meddling on the part of deities—appear, in some way, in modern discourse on war?

13. Which aspects of Homers Iliad and Odyssey were you most familiar with before reading this novel? Which reinventions by Mason amused you the most?

14. In the world of The Lost Books of the Odyssey, how does life for the female characters (gods and mortals alike) compare to that of men? What double standards exist? What surprisingly progressive ideals are in place?

15. What connections between the stories are evident? What threads are woven into the characters recurring struggles?

16. For centuries, Troy was considered to be a locale invented for ancient legends, but nineteenth-century excavations in Turkey confirmed the likely site of the walled city. Does the truth about the Trojan War matter? Is it all right to exchange accuracy for drama, delivering a rousing war story that makes its heroes immortal?

Reading Group Guide written by Amy Root / Amy Roots Wordshop, Inc.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

Molly Samuel, January 2, 2011 (view all comments by Molly Samuel)
The Lost Books of the Odyssey experiments with storytelling, with well-known characters, with epic tropes. The different versions of the story of the Odyssey are adventurous, sensitive, wily. The book is like Odysseus himself, who I think about differently having read it.
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dougawells, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by dougawells)
I loved this book. Excellent writing, wonderful re-telling of stories that we all know. One of the best books of the year.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Stephen Teso, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Stephen Teso)
How brave must you be to addd new chapters to a timeless classic - brave enough to be brilliant and bold enough to add a new vision that transforms and comments on the nature of myth, truth and illusion.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374192150
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Mason, Zachary
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100202
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.27 x 5.48 x 0.64 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Classics » Greek
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Humanities » Mythology » Folklore and Storytelling

The Lost Books of the Odyssey Used Hardcover
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Product details 240 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374192150 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Mason's fantastic first novel, a deft reimagining of Homer's Odyssey, begins with the story as we know it before altering the perspective or fate of the characters in subsequent short story — like chapters. Legendary moments of myth are played differently throughout, as when Odysseus forgoes the Trojan horse, or when the Cyclops — here a gentle farmer — is blinded by Odysseus while he burgles the Cyclops's cave. Mason's other life — as a computer scientist — informs some chapters, such as 'The Long Way Back' in which Daedalus's labyrinth ensnares Theseus in a much different way. Part of what makes this so enjoyable is the firm grasp Mason has on the source material; the footnotes double as humorous asides while reminding readers who aren't familiar with the original that, for instance, Eumaios is 'the swineherd who sheltered Odysseus when he first returned to Ithaca and later helped him kill the suitors.' This original work consistently surprises and delights." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[A] dazzling debut....Stunning and hypnotic....[Mason] has written a series of jazzy, post-modernist variations on the Odyssey, and in doing so he's created an ingeniously Borgesian novel that's witty, playful, moving and tirelessly inventive....This is a book that not only addresses the themes of Homer's classic — the dangers of pride, the protean nature of identity, the tryst between fate and free will — but also poses new questions to the reader about art and originality and the nature of storytelling."
"Review" by , "Spellbinding. In his versions of these ancient myths, Mason twists and jinks, renegotiating the journey to Ithaca with all the guile and trickery of Odysseus himself. Rarely is it so reassuring to be in the hands of such an unreliable narrator."
"Review" by , "A subtle, inventive, and moving meditation on the nature of story and what Louis MacNeice calls 'the drunkenness of things being various.'"
"Review" by , "Mason's delightful, inventive collection takes the raw materials of Homer — wily Odysseus, faithful Penelope, wrathful Poseidon — and then recombines, warps and twists elements of his well-worn tale."
"Review" by , "[A] literary adventure in which everything — the hero, the author, even the reader — is up for grabs...The epic as kaleidoscope."
"Review" by , "Though none of these brilliantly conceived revisions fits neatly into Homer's classic poem, each resonates with something of the artistic vigor of the ancient original....A daring and successful experiment in fictional technique."
"Synopsis" by , Mason's beguiling debut novel reimagines Homer's classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy.
"Synopsis" by ,

A New York Times Bestseller

A New York Times Book Review Editors Choice

Zachary Masons brilliant and beguiling debut novel reimagines Homers classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With hypnotic prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homers original that, taken together, open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.

"Synopsis" by ,
A BRILLIANT AND BEGUILING REIMAGINING OF ONE OF OUR GREATEST MYTHS BY A GIFTED YOUNG WRITER

Zachary Masons brilliant and beguiling debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homers classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With brilliant prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homers original that taken together open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.
Zachary Mason is a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence. He was a finalist for the 2008 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. He lives in California.
The Lost Books of the Odyssey reimagines Homers classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With brilliant prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homers original that, taken together, open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.
“[A] dazzling debut . . . Stunning and hypnotic . . . Mr. Mason . . . has written a series of jazzy, post-modernist variations on the Odyssey, and in doing so hes created an ingeniously Borgesian novel thats witty, playful, moving and tirelessly inventive . . . This is a book that not only addresses the themes of Homers classic—the dangers of pride, the protean nature of identity, the tryst between fate and free will—but also poses new questions to the reader about art and originality and the nature of storytelling.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“[The Lost Books of the Odyssey] is, to my surprise, a wonderful book. I had expected it to be rather preening, and probably thin. But it is intelligent, absorbing, wonderfully written, and perhaps the most revelatory and brilliant prose encounter with Homer since James Joyce.”—Simon Goldhill, The Times Literary Supplement

“A subtle, inventive, and moving meditation on the nature of story and what Louis MacNeice calls ‘the drunkenness of things being various.”—John Banville, Booker Prize–winning author of The Sea

“Spellbinding. In his versions of these ancient myths, Mason twists and jinks, renegotiating the journey to Ithaca with all the guile and trickery of Odysseus himself. Rarely is it so reassuring to be in the hands of such an unreliable narrator.”—Simon Armitage, author of The Odyssey: A Dramatic Retelling of Homers Epic

“Beautifully written, intelligent, war-inflected in all the most ancient and contemporary ways . . . An ambitious feast!”—Carole Maso, author of Ava and The Art Lover

“A stirring revelation: Zachary Masons astounding glosses of the Odyssey plunge us into an unforeseeable and hypnotic dimension of fiction. Of the three possible interpretations of the work that he proposes—Homeric stories anciently reproduced by recombining their components, a Theosophist dream of abstract mathematics, and pure illusion (that is, it was all made up by him)—the result is one and the same. This enthralling book is his doing, whether as translator, conjuror, or author. I vote for number three.”—Harry Mathews, author of My Life in CIA

“Masons delightful, inventive collection takes the raw materials of Homer—wily Odysseus, faithful Penelope, wrathful Poseidon—and then recombines, warps and twists elements of his well-worn tale.”—Philadelphia City Paper

“Masons fantastic first novel, a deft reimagining of Homers Odyssey, begins with the story as we know it before altering the perspective or fate of the characters in subsequent short story–like chapters . . . This original work consistently surprises and delights.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“These imaginary lost books of The Odyssey enhance Homers epic tale with alternative scenarios and viewpoints. A finalist this year for the New York Public Librarys Young Lions Award, Mason employs clear, crisp prose and a clever sense of humor to propel the action briskly . . . A paean to the power of storytelling.”—Library Journal

“Though none of these brilliantly conceived revisions fits neatly into Homers classic poem, each resonates with something of the artistic vigor of the ancient original . . . A daring and successful experiment in fictional technique.”—Booklist

“[A] literary adventure in which everything—the hero, the author, even the reader—is up for grabs . . . The epic as kaleidoscope.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Reading Zachary Masons forthcoming The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Ive been in danger of missing my subway stop . . . Funny, spooky, action-packed, philosophical—the mood keeps shifting, and you keep wanting to read just one more.”—Barnes and Noble Review

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