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A highly accessible book infused with sharp considerations of the “first teacher” of Greece and of the epics' enduring...

Graziosi (Classics/Durham Univ.; The Gods of Olympus: A History, 2014, etc.) delivers an excellent guide, rendered with both academic rigor and clarity, to understanding the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as their putative author.

Translated into almost every modern language, these epic poems are cornerstones of the Western literary canon. Homer wrote about Greece's remote past, even for ancient audiences, some of whom regarded these seminal stories as the work of multiple poets, drawn from oral compositions, recomposed again and again in performance and interpreted in manifest ways. Today, Homer is almost as elusive as his character Odysseus—and perhaps as mythical. Herodotus notwithstanding, scholars of classical Greece revered Homer but had no evidence he actually existed. As for modern readers (and viewers), Graziosi points out that most encounter the poems—especially the Odyssey—through other works in varied media rather than by reading the “originals,” themselves subject to millennia of editing. In the end, Graziosi concludes, as did Nietzsche, that Homer's authorship is an aesthetic judgment, not a fact, and that the epics likely were of both oral and written origin. But this debate takes a back seat to her lively observations on the works, their brilliant insights on humanity. and their numerous contradictions. Graziosi's analyses of the literary, linguistic, historical, cultural, and archaeological issues surrounding the poems—not least the “artificial” language of Homeric Greek—are remarkable feats of compression, succinct yet richly detailed. From the existential quality of the Iliad to Odysseus' journey to the Underworld (and how it inspired Dante) to the parallels between Achilles and the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh, this slender volume is fluidly written, provocative, and persuasive.

A highly accessible book infused with sharp considerations of the “first teacher” of Greece and of the epics' enduring power, provenance, and influence not only on antiquity and the Middle Ages, but on the modern world.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-878830-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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