Driving to work yesterday, I caught an NPR review of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. When a respected film critic disapproves as that one did, I can proceed in one of two ways: relegate the selection to “Netflix but not big screen” status–possibly even the dreaded “don’t bother” tag–or view that judgment as a challenge to buy a ticket and prove him wrong.
Lightning Thief certainly delivers an appealing premise. Based on Rick Riordan’s popular series of children’s books, the movie chronicles a young demigod’s dealings with a host of figures from classical mythology, including Medusa (Uma Thurman) and Chiron (Pierce Brosnan).
In the grownup book world, few classical scenarios offer greater scope for godly intervention (interference) than Homer’s Odyssey. Everyone can relate to some aspect of Odysseus’ situation, be it his supreme ill luck in attracting divine attention or his list of true yet unbelievable excuses for returning several years late (“Honest, honey, it was Calypso’s fault.”) If you’re a fan, look for this modern update in the library catalog: Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey. Kirkus Reviews calls this creation of New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award finalist Mason a “paean to the power or storytelling”.
Another “coming soon to the library” selection: Ioanna Karystiani’s Swell. Described by Library Journal as “a retelling of The Odyssey for the cell-phone age”, Swell (since translated into English) won the National Award for Best Greek Novel of 2007. Literary fiction fans will want to monitor our online catalog in a few weeks to request this tale of an aging sea captain who’s been at sea for twelve years and cagily reports that “the sea won’t give me back”. Talk about classic excuses!