by Percival Everett ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1997
Everett, author of uneven, ambitious fiction in modern settings (Watershed, p. 244, etc.), tries something very different this time: a reworking of chunks of Greek mythology, centered on the moody figure of the god/man Dionysos (a.k.a. Bakkhos), mixing poetic narration and monologues with ironic, contemporary-sounding dialogue. The novel begins as wandering Dionysos, a kind of missionary of ecstatic anarchy, arrives in Thebes with his corps of dancing, singing Maenads--wine-crazed women whose sensual carryings-on mesmerize the townfolk and undermine the authority of young King Pentheus (who doesn't know that Dionysos is his cousin). Also with Dionysos is his assistant, Vlepo, who can magically enter anyone's mind or body, thus generating interior monologues from a slew of characters: insecure, arrogant Pentheus, whose doom is sealed by his refusal to acknowledge Dionysos' godhood; Kadmos, Pentheus' grandfather, who regrets abdicating and bemoans the royal failings of the ""stupid young twit""; Pentheus' man-hating mother Agave, a frenzied convert to the brutal Bakkhic revels; blind seer Tiresias, beaten by the Maenads; and the wild women themselves, in various stages of orgasmic bliss. And Everett also peppers the fragmented narrative with episodes from Dionysos' past and from other myths, including the stories of Orpheus (bloodily murdered by the Maenads), and the Minotaur's sister Ariadne (comforted by Dionysos after Theseus seduces and abandons her). Readers intimately familiar with the source material here may be intrigued by Everett's interweaving of legends and intermittently engaged by his lyrical yet playful approach. Others, however, will find this a strained, rather precious exercise with grandiose themes--the connection between sensuality and brutality, the nature of mortality, etc.--touched upon rather than explored.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997
Page Count: 168
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996
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