Open a book this minute and start reading. Don’t move until you’ve reached page fifty. Until you’ve buried your thoughts in print. Cover yourself with words. Wash yourself away. Dissolve. Carol Shields Republic of Love

Once Upon a Time Fragments

In which I chatter about Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, the Mythlopedia series, the third in Bill Willingham’s Fables series, and make hasty notes about my other reading for the un-challenge.

The Lightning Thief is intended to be larger than life. Percy Jackson is not a normal boy.

He is a half-blood, half-mortal and half-immortal. When the novel opens, characters are introduced to him in a scene which introduces Percy to the bizarre reality that is about to become his new normal.

In this world, teachers are not what they seem to be, and nothing else is either. But Western Civilization?

It’s a living force, a “collective unconsciousness that has burned bright for thousands of years”. Greece, Germany, France and Spain all played host, until now.

“Like it or not — and believe me, plenty of people weren’t very fond of Rome, either — American is now the heart of the flame. It is the great power of the West. And so Olympus is here. And we are here.”

That’s not the kind of passage that gets me all warm and fuzzy, but if you can set aside the whole Western-tilt, there is fun to be had here.

I thought the snappy grade-school humour of the first chapter would wear on me, but no, and the fun of recognizing the immortals, heroes and monsters is sustained throughout the novel.

My oldest BIP girl has been urging me to read this for nearly a year now (I’m the last in the family to succumb), I found The Lightning Thief entertaining and engaging. And now I’m being urged in the direction of the second volume (you saw that coming, too, right?) and I can’t say that I’m resisting all that heartily either.

Admittedly, it was again the influence of other members of the family that urged me in the direction of the Mythlopedia volumes.

I began with All in the Family: A Look-It-Up Guide to the In-laws, Outlaws, and Offspring of Mythology volume (by Steven Otfinoski) because it covered quite a few of the characters that I was reading about in Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles.

The volume opens with the heading TMI which, in this context, means The Mythlopedia Introduction. After a couple of pages of basic information (What is mythology? What’s a myth? Do myths matter?), the colourful layouts begin.

These are arranged in alphabetical order, with each figure receiving about four pages which contain basic information: a profile (with top 10 Things to Know, a graphic for lineage (listing family flings, friends and foes), a page of with-broad-strokes introductory material, and three or four very short articles highlighting specific events in their lives.

Some folks, like Odysseus, get a couple more pages; to the right, you can see a portion of the graphic that is used to trace his voyages. (Other major events — for instance, The Trojan War — get a similar treatment.)

Obviously this is no substitute for The Iliad or The Odyssey, but it could incite interest or reinforce familiar tales, depending on the reader’s familiarity.

There are other volumes in the series, including She’s All That: A Look-It-Up Guide to the Goddesses of Mythology and What a Beast! A Look-It-Up Guide to the Monsters and Mutants of Mythology, which take a similar approach.

Yes, they’re designed with younger readers in mind, but I still get a giggle out of a bubble with “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful!” coming out of Pegasus’ mouth. And, anyway, when I’m not giggling, I’m learning. Actually, I think it’s possible to giggle and learn at the same time.

The theme of this post is shaping up to be Fun Reads. Storybook Love, the third in the Fables series, also fits that criterion.

It’s a delicate balance, solidifying the characters that readers have already met in previous volumes and introducing new characters. (I discuss reading the first two volumes here.)

Storybook Love, for instance, introduces reader of Bill Willingham’s series to Briar Rose.

Prince Charming helps her out of the limosine, warning her about the treacherous footing with the heavy snowfall.

She replies “And you would know ‘treacherous’ when you see it, dear– being so personally experienced at it.”

He brushes off her bitterness: “Now, now, darling, this is no time to dredge up the past. Remember we’re a deliriously happy Mundy couple.”

The Mundys are the ordinary people, not the Fables, not the immortal refugees from magical worlds and kingdoms who inhabit a secret New York City community (those who cannot maintain a human form live on the upstate New York Fabletown annex known as The Farm).

Briar Rose and Prince Charming are gaining entrance to an apartment building so that she can prick her finger and put all those residents and current inhabitants to sleep, just as the old curse promises/threatens.

The tricky part is what to do with the thorny bushes that eventually erupt outside and envelope the structure, which is difficult to explain in a Mundy-world.

Actually, that’s not the tricky part, but revealing that would be a spoiler for certain. Which would definitely spoil the fun, which is really the whole point of this delightfully entertaining clever series: the fun of it.

In other related reading, I’m still portioning out the stories in Charles deLint’s Dreams Underfoot, re-reading Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad,  reading Cameron Dokey’s The World Above, co-reading A Game of Thrones with Vasilly, and I’ve finally rented some movies with fairy-tales in mind.

Have you read any of these, or do you plan to?
Are you enjoying your OUaT reading this year?

 

 

 

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2 comments to Once Upon a Time Fragments

  • Have fun with the Percy Jackson series! He keeps up the humor and the mythology references all the way through. They’re mostly pretty light books, but fun. And Fables, rarely light, is also great fun!

    • I pulled the second one off the shelf yesterday, and then made myself put it back (mainly because I’m currently lugging 10 books around as “current” reads): I can see why they are addictive reading for so many, and I’m sure I won’t heed my warning for long!

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