There isn’t anything that I am particularly nerdy about. When I say nerdy, I mean something that I love so much that I have taken the time to know it inside and out. The closest example of what I mean is how Stephen Colbert knows just about everything about the universe of The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. He’s read everything, asked questions, collected information, and not because anyone told him to, but because he wanted to know it.
If I could have been ultra-nerdy about anything, I think it would have been Greek and Roman mythology. Every time I read something even loosely based on it, my brain feels…I’m not sure how to describe it…like a horse in the starting gate before a race. Poised? Anticipatory? Like if I had the time I would immediately go get three other books just about this topic and read them too. Like I wouldn’t know how to stop.
As a teacher, I also appreciate when this kind of information is brought to the present, and given to me in the colloquial. Reading the Iliad or the Odyssey can be fun as long as the language isn’t all tangled in ancient terms. The stories are good, otherwise they wouldn’t have stood the test of time through an oral tradition, so there is no reason why we can’t tell them in our modern day terms.
Putting all of this together made The Song of Achilles a book that latched onto my face like an alien and bored itself into my brain as quickly as humanly possible. I read the first half of the book in the span of like 3 hours. It’s the story of Achilles, told from the point of view of his lover Patroclus. It follows them from their childhood all the way to the siege on Troy. It’s written like a YA novel, focusing more on the gay love story than the actual details of the myth. What Madeline Miller used to her advantage here is the general knowledge of the myth – she had the ability to tell a different story while telling the same old story, couching the new in the very familiar, and in doing so making the book both a comfort and a revelation.
I do not want to spoil the ending for you. Its beauty is something that should unfold before you without anyone giving you any information. When I read the last italicized words I felt relief. I felt thankful. I felt at peace.
Go get you some.