The life of the blind soothsayer of myth and classic literature becomes a clever (if rather lifeless) contemporary exploration of gender, time, and religion. Steinbach (Reliable Light, 1990, etc.) takes the legend of the young Theban, blinded because he saw the goddess Athena bathing, and turns it into a revisionist tale for our times. Unable to restore his sight, Athena gave Teiresias the dubious gift of foreseeing the future, a gift that still has its uses. Now in the underworld, populated by the shades of the dead who have drunk the waters of Lethe and forgotten their pasts, Teiresias, whose politics are more those of a 20th-century antiwar activist than a classical warrior, accuses Odysseus of being a warmonger, a violent spirit who most enjoys killing and bloodshed. As he tries to change Odysseus' politics, Teiresias recalls his own past and the dreadful visions of the future he's had. He recalls being blinded, his brief transformation into a woman, and his meeting with Hera and Zeus, who wanted to know, based on his experience, which gender experienced the most sexual satisfaction. He also remembers how he foresaw the fate of his native Thebes, and how he has had visions of disasters yet to come, including the Holocaust and Hiroshima. The gods themselves make brief appearances, and Zeus is advised by Teiresias—who foresees the birth of Buddha, Christ, and Mohammed- -to change his ways and become a kinder, gentler deity. Finally, horrified by the terrible visions Teiresias has conjured up for him, Odysseus has a change of heart, renouncing his warlike ways; and the blind seer in turn at last understands that life itself is more important than his obsession with time, that living in the present moment matters more than any dreams—or nightmares—of the future. Provocative, but only intermittently so, as Teiresias attempts to teach some old gods new tricks.
Read full book review >