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The Lost Books of the Odyssey: A Novel Paperback – Jan 4 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (Jan. 4 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312680465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312680466
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 14.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #229,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cliff Burns on March 9 2011
Format: Paperback
You have to admire the hubris of Mr. Mason.

He has produced a book that's a kind of companion volume to Homer's ODYSSEY, one of the treasures of world literature. Composed of a series of tales and apocryphal fragments, THE LOST BOOKS OF THE ODYSSEY maintains the spirit of the original, expanding on some of the incidents and characters in ODYSSEY to the extent that, I believe, we come away with a renewed appreciation and fresh understanding of Homer's magnificent epic.

I am an enormous fan of Robert Fagles' peerless translations of ODYSSEY and ILIAD and was, frankly, dubious that Mason had any hope of achieving his artistic aims. I'm pleased to report I was wrong. LOST BOOKS is a remarkable achievement and this author, young as he is, is a major new talent on the literary scene.

Watch out for him, he's going to be something.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 62 reviews
96 of 100 people found the following review helpful
Surprisingly Visceral Feb. 29 2008
By Cordelia - Published on
Format: Paperback
When the author gave his first reading of this book in New York he spoke about the book in clinical terms; its use of mathematical principles, the book as a study of recursion. But this book could not be less clinical. Though the tale is told in vignettes, each offers a different window into a sliver of the human condition with all its pain and drama and the emotions that motivate a human life.

A beautiful treatment not just of Odysseus, but also of Homer's other characters, the novel fleshes out these iconic figures so that they can be touched and tasted and felt.

In the Jewish tradition there is the idea of writing midrash -- stories that explain the tales from the bible by filling in the human connections between the lines. Mr. Mason has succeeded in writing very believable midrash on the Homeric epics which illuminate the text by giving us further angles by which to view.
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Exciting debut breathes new life into the classics Dec 5 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was privileged to see an early draft of Zachary Mason's Lost Books of the Odyssey, and I am delighted that this multi-talented young writer / scientist / athlete has found a publisher for the full, prize-winnning version. Fans of Jorge Luis Borges will find much to savor here, as will devotees of Neil Gaiman: Mason effortlessly blends the intricately imagined settings of the former with the pensive chill of the latter, to fresh and sometimes startling effect. I'll skip the hyperbole and superlatives that surround every notable fiction debut nowadays, and suggest that if you are a fan of the original, are hungry for skillful, soulful writing, or just looking for a good read, buy the Lost Books.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
"I saw myself how my wit exceeded that of other men..." Jan. 27 2010
By Mary Whipple - Published on
Format: Paperback
Unlike the Odyssey translations by poets Robert Fitzgerald and Richmond Lattimore, Zachary Mason's newly published version of The Odyssey takes a post-modernist approach--casual, playful, earthy, and even scatological. Using the traditional story of the Odyssey as his starting point, Mason gives his own take on various episodes from that epic, jumping around in time and place, changing major aspects of the story, adding new episodes, and providing unique points of view. Odysseus is not an epic hero here. Rather, he is an often arrogant man who loves killing, often acts cruelly, and even makes mistakes, a real man whom Athena abandons for part of the narrative.

In Mason's version of this epic, the story lines change. Odysseus himself vies for the hand of Helen and has some success in winning her. After the death of Achilles, Odysseus creates a golem of Achilles out of clay so that Achilles can keep fighting. He tells the tale of Polyphemus, the giant, from Polyphemus's point of view, that of a peaceful farmer who offers hospitality to the men whom he finds occupying his cave when he returns home, and the payment they give him. Mason gives several different accounts of Odysseus's return home (choose your favorite)-in one, Penelope is a "shade," a ghostly presence whom he cannot touch. In another, she has given up waiting for him and found another husband. At other times, she is described as still bedeviled by the suitors. In yet another, Odysseus returns to find his entire city abandoned.

Even Homer himself appears in this novel, lying in a hammock and dreaming of discovering a great book. Odysseus, on the other hand, actually finds a copy of the Iliad, written by the gods before the Trojan War, in Agamemnon's cabin on the ship. Gods and goddesses flit in and out, take the appearance of humans, play tricks, and have love affairs. Tightrope walkers, Alexander the Great, and even the doctors and nurses of a sanatorium appear and disappear.

Though some reviewers say that knowledge of the "real" Odyssey is not a prerequisite to the enjoyment of this book, all the humor depends on that knowledge. The ironies, absurdities, twists and turns, and shifts in point of view need the context of the original epic to have any meaning for the reader. Lovers of postmodern fiction, with its abandonment of boundaries and its open, free-for-all attitudes will find much to love in this novel, which looks at the Odyssey through a new lens. Mary Whipple
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Rare Find Feb. 21 2008
By Cora Stryker - Published on
Format: Paperback
For those of us who come to novels expecting something more than a novel, who want graceful prose and intellectual rigor, who want to come away feeling as though we've discovered a world that is new and yet reminds us of the fictional worlds we love best, for those of us who are nearly always disappointed, Zachary Mason's Lost Books is an exception.

His sentences are lithe and muscular, and his project is large -- he will make you return to the Odyssey to be sure you haven't remembered it incorrectly, and, perhaps most astonishingly, he will change the way you remember the Odyssey.

I have long believed that, in Eliot's words, "a new work of art ... is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it," but it's been a long time since I watched a contemporary author do this with such grace. In addition to its austere, sometimes poetic beauty, in addition to the play with text and form and time, Lost Books is that rare synthesis of big ideas and small, gorgeous moments.

Put Lost Books on the shelf beside Borges, Calvino and Homer. It merits rereading and rereading.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant! Feb. 20 2010
By Ernest Pescoya - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I can't say enough good things about this book. The vignettes resonate with life and offer unique (and, often, challenging) perspectives into The Odyssey of Homer. I will be recommending this one to all of my mythology loving friends. Hell, I'll be recommending it to any friend who reads books. Well done, Mr. Mason. I look forward to your next project.

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