Thursday, February 23, 2006

the death of a misogynist

title: no love, no.

rating: pg-13. character death & misogyny, man.

glory in 50mins.

the death of hippolytus, retold. this is the third prompt in a row to which i've responded using a myth.

i'm no euripydes.

Life’s a bitch, they say. My father may rail about life and labours and taxes and minotaurs but he has it completely wrong. Life’s peachy; it’s the women who are bitches.

I devoted my life to a woman; I was as pure as the virginal Olympian snow and now I’m coughing up scarlet and half my ribs are broken and all my goddess can do is flutter helplessly and look reproachfully at my father. To his credit, he looks a little sheepish.

It’s not as though I led an easy life. Celibacy is never easy in mythology. My father doesn’t even know who his real father is. It could be Aegeus or it could be Poseidon who lives by the credo that there are plenty more fish in the sea. My father is not exactly piety personified either. Between raping and pillaging and kidnapping, he may or may not have married my mother. He has always been rather hazy on the details; he went on a bender with Heracles, swiped my mother’s girdle as part of a dare and abducted her sister. Somewhere in the haze of bourbon and casinos, he found his way to sleeping with my mother.

My childhood was uneventful after such sordid beginnings. I was never marked out for greatness and my father never showed much interest in me. I must have reminded him too much of the one-breasted woman who gate-crashed his wedding to Phaedra. My mother was promptly and viciously ejected from the proceedings. I have heard the story many times. My step-brother delighted in crowing about it.

I never had much interest in women – or, indeed, in men – but Aphrodite must have thought I was a soft touch. By that time, I had already dedicated my life to Artemis, my ineffectual deity whose hands tremble uselessly on my white, cold cheeks. Unlike my father, things don’t slip my mind. I don’t forget what colour sails I travel under although I can’t help but wonder whether I shouldn’t have dedicated my life to Dionysus. Father would have loved that. Perhaps it would have sent him over the edge in my place.

No doubt I should feel sorry for Phaedra but I lie dying because of her lies; my sympathy extends only to myself. It was unkind of Aphrodite to misuse my stepmother so but the gods are like children, capricious and wilful (and goddesses doubly so).

It is hardly a glorious end, hurtling over the edge of a cliff, hot on the heels of my stepmother’s suicide. I could have been a hero but instead I die this death of a virgin prince, all bloodied and white, untouched but royally screwed over.

Monday, February 20, 2006


In lieu of actual content, another reposting of modern-day myth.

title: discord


a series of unfortunate events.

the judgment of paris in a modern setting, 568 words.

Paris tells the story differently of course and so very vividly.

Mount Ida is a remote place with a railway line that cuts right through, straight between the foothills, dividing the isolated from the inaccessible. There is a secluded platform and crumbling shack that constitutes the station. The train to Phrygia only stops at Mount Ida once a week but Paris went to the station religiously every Monday evening at nineteen hundred hours to collect letters from Troy and elsewhere (to the young Paris, elsewhere was a vast unknown place that was neither the Troy private compound nor the vast spaces of Mount Ida).

The evening in question was sometime in the early summer. Paris remembers this because the shadows were long and the sky was pink (red sky at night, shepherd’s delight) and he was not alone. There was a girl standing on the platform. He remembers that she was wearing a calf-length red dress and a large straw hat with scarlet ribbons that whipped about in the wind, cutting through the air like rivulets of blood. She was holding an apple as the train drew near. Paris tried not to notice how the skirt of the dress was blown up, a Marilyn Monroe movie scene transposed to a decaying railway platform. He knows he shouldn’t have been watching her, with a childhood sweetheart at home, heavily pregnant. Oenone had laughed when he left for the lonely outpost because he was wearing a flat farmer’s cap and carried a rifle over his shoulder; he looked like any other farmer except that he was a foreigner, a not-quite-son of Phrygia. He would never have calluses on his hands.

As the train slowed down, the girl told Paris that her name was Eris and he thought nothing of it. She must have dropped the apple when she boarded the train; that is Paris’ reasoning at least.

There was very little mail to collect that day; just some junk that Cebren had ordered from a catalogue. Cebren hoarded all those little things, like limited edition corkscrews and kitchen knives and car wax. Paris looked down to see the apple at his feet (golden delicious) and he picked it up just as the train pulled away from the platform.

Eris was nowhere to be seen but Paris was not alone. Three women stood, perfectly groomed and immaculately manicured and all three stared at Paris expectantly.

He claims he was flustered. They all started speaking at once, speaking of power and wisdom and military prowess, but one of them was demure; the one with the rosy cheeks and shining hair. She whispered something about love and beauty and Paris still does not know why he pushed the apple into her hand before he hurried down the mountainside to the house of his father-in-law.

It was only when he saw Helen’s photograph in one of Oenone’s glossy magazines and his gut squirmed that he understood what he had done.

I think I am the only one who does not blame him for it; we might as well blame Peleus and Thetis for not inviting Eris to their wedding (although the gods know that everyone else was invited). Paris blames Eris herself of course; he calls her a vindictive Eve. I tell him that he has mixed up his mythologies but the principle is all the same.

What harm ever came from an apple?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

telling the same old story

I must learn to update here more often.

I'm reading Weight by Jeanette Winterson right now. It's a re-telling of the myth of Atlas and Heracles and I'm definitely enjoying it more than Margaret Atwood's The Penolopiad, as much as I like Odysseus and Penelope.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, it's one of those things that worries me; all these ideas that we think are original - re-telling mythologies in a modern light - are never original, are they? Roswitha has written some stunning stuff which can be found on her blog - Intended, for one, and All These Things That I've Done, for another.

Personally, I quite enjoy rewriting stories from myths but has it all been done before? I like to think: not quite like this.


bonfire of the vanities


you hurt the one you love, 750 words.

summary: a modern-day retelling of the death of dido of carthage, with apologies to virgil, yo.

Dido leans against the doorframe and watches Aeneas pack. He looks at the gun holster at her hip, knows that the royal crest is engraved on the barrel and on every bullet and wonders if he should ever turn his back on this woman.

“Sweetheart,” he begins before faltering. It is difficult to address a face that looks to be graven in alabaster; he has never been good at praying to statues, even though he has been carting two of the blasted things across the globe. He hopes to sell them, unfriendly household gods. If they had been made of gold, he would already have melted them down. His father tells him that he is just jealous that they have taken better to exile than Aeneas.

“Darling,” he tries again. “You know that I love you but I have to go.”

She arches an eyebrow but makes no comment. He ignores the tears that roll down her cheeks because she ignores them. Two days ago, he would have held her and she would have allowed it. He could have licked the salt drops. He could have turned his back to her in bed and known that she would not put a bullet in his spine to stop him from leaving.

“It’s Mercury. You know I have to go when and where he tells me.” Aeneas, lapdog of the gods, speaks again and Dido looks away.

A servant comes in to inform Aeneas that the plane is ready for departure whenever he is. Aeneas picks up his bag and looks around the room to ensure that he has left nothing behind. It is the instinct of the traveller who has spent countless nights in motels and never leaves a forwarding address.

He has not even left the room before the men come in to strip it of its trappings, anything and everything Aeneas might have touched. If he did not have such a strong grip on his bag, he thinks they might take it from him. Within minutes, the room is bare and Dido still watches him.

She did not scream and shout as he thought she might. She did not even mention the pre-nuptial agreement that was never signed. Aeneas expects divorce papers sometime in the future. He may not know his precise destination but that would hardly deter Dido. It could be fought, of course, and the marriage nullified; Aeneas believes that there is enough evidence to say that it was not legally-binding.

The flaw, and there is always a flaw, is that Aeneas thinks that he did love her. Upon Mercury’s arrival, however, Aeneas’ enthusiasm for marriage died a quick and painful death; Mercury has that effect on many people, Aeneas suspects. He also suspects Mercury of being high on amphetamines for most of his waking life; he is certain the most highly-strung individual of Aeneas’ acquaintance although his sister-in-law must come a close second.

He is driven to the airstrip in a limo stripped of royal markings. Aeneas is surprised that the security guards did not stop him. He had Misenus check that there were no explosives attached to the ignition although he supposes that Dido’s chauffeur might still drive him down a quiet country lane and slit his throat.

They see the fire shortly after take-off. Billows of black smoke rise from the palace courtyard and the pilot has to bank the plan sharply to the left. Aeneas’ hand is wrapped around a large glass of whiskey and he is cursing Mercury and Jupiter under his breath.

“She is burning everything I ever touched,” he says.

“Vanity, vanity,” says Iapyx. The good doctor does not even look up from his book which is some trashy whodunit. Everyone knows that Iapyx will skip to the last page to find out how it ends.

When they land, every television in the airport is tuned to footage of Dido’s dramatic suicide. “… reporting from Carthage … tragedy strikes … first husband … second husband … shot herself … burned alive …”

Many years pass, full of histories and myths about twin boys brought up by a wolf or a prostitute, about fratricide and aqueducts and centurions and Kings of England, before Aeneas meets Dido again, in a strange bar in a strange country. He raises his glass to her and she turns away and walks, one high-heeled foot in front of the other, towards the other man.

Aeneas may be dead now but that still smarts like a bitch.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I feel I should post here more often, I do. Not least because I now own a Blogger hoodie, courtesy of mah wondrous Roswitha.

Perhaps that should be my new year's resolution?

That and pass my exams and go to South America and other highly attainable stuff.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I'm a leaf on the wind. Leaf on the wind, I say!

What is it about exam time? Or, more specifically, the run-up to exam-time? Seriously, I get so damned distracted by the most minor things...

1. Why did my purple gel pen have to run out?

2. Why do I really, really like James Blunt's Out of my Mind?

3. Why is it that certain words are suddenly impossible to spell? Like haemorrhage? How many m's? How many r's? Does it really need that second h? And don't get me started on intussusception.

4. Why does Sod's Law have a subsection stating that all decent concerts/book-signings/comedy shows must be held during my exam fortnight? I am missing the Frames' first gig in the Point and Neil Gaiman's appearance on Rattlebag not to mention shows by half of the Panel's regulars.

5. Where is this sudden urge to read Remus/Sirius coming from? Even the eye-bleeding stuff? Save me.

I feel like throwing a hissy-fit but I think that's what my sense of procrastination wants me to do.I'm on to it*, though! I won't let it lull me into a false sense of security, oh no. I know all about its cunning wiles.

*I don't know what it is but it's not getting the better of me.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I was tagged by Roswitha to write a 55 word story and seeing as I'm totally her bitch, I am now finally coming up with the goods.

He was waiting for the opportune moment, between the yelling and the figurative gunfire. He would rather keep his head down; hiding in the trenches was more his style anyway. He did so hate scenes.

He did step forward in the end, though, and claimed responsibility. It was he who ate the last chocolate biscuit.

That seems like less than 55 words. Anyway, I'm supposed to tag someone else to write a 55-worder but I'm just leaving it open to anyone who wants to.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The new "Pride and Prejudice", eh? It's not half-bad.

I was about fourteen when the BBC Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle version was first aired and I was smitten, I have to admit. I read the book on the strength of it (and that led on to me reading the rest of Austen's novels and scoping out any other BBC adaptations that were floating around. None of them lived up to that first viewing of "Pride and Prejudice".). It was going to take some beating, especially when taking into account the time limitations of a feature film as opposed to a television serial.

When I heard that Matthew McFadyen was to play Mr Darcy, I was quietly confident despite the initial "He's no Colin Firth" sentiment. Do we all remember him in "The Way We Live Now"? Which also starred such luminaries as David Suchet not to mention a couple of bright young things - Cillian Murphy, Miranda Otto, Shirley Henderson, anyone? There was "Spooks", of course; yet another decent BBC drama (that cuts rather close to the bone these days and is the better for it) which starred McFadyen as pseudo-Bond, Tom.

As for Keira Knightley? Well, we know she can do period (Elizabeth Swann in "Pirate of the Caribbean") and we know she can do strong (Guenevere in "King Arthur"). Perhaps a little too pretty to be Lizzie Bennet but she's a good enough actress to overcome such a disadvantage. (I will dislodge my tongue from my cheek any day now).

Rosamund Pike was certainly going to be pretty enough to play Jane and Jena Malone as Lydia seemed to be a good call, 'despite' her being American. Brenda Blethyn as Mrs Bennet and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh was really dream-team casting, wasn't it? Tom Hollander, Simon Woods and the wonderful Donald Sutherland provided strong male support, as expected from the boys.

I really, really enjoyed it. Not just the acting but the scenery. Honestly, it made England seem positively idyllic, even when knee deep in pig shit. Pemberley was stunning while Longbourn was more rustic than in the BBC version but none the weaker for it.

Some of the dialogue did jar a little; I can't quite imagine Jane telling Lizzie that she was 'over' Mr Bingley in quite those words or Mr Bingley telling Jane that he had been an ass but I did enjoy the ever-present eaves-dropping sisters toppling in through the door. There was some touches that were maybe not Austenesque but were far too touching to omit. Mr Bennet seeking out Mary to give her a hug having embarrassed her and her piano-playing at the Netherfield Ball? Priceless. Who didn't want Donald Sutherland as their father in that scene?

The characters omitted weren't too conspicuous in their absence; various siblings from what I could gather. There was no Mariah Lucas, no Mrs Phillips and no Mrs Hurst but it didn't matter. I think the screen would have been crowded if they had been included.

To be fair, the concluding scene, with Mr Darcy walking through the mist was possibly a tiny bit contrived but I'm sure as hell not going to grudge Lizzie and Darcy that scene! The chemistry (damn, I hate that phrase) between them had been simmering along nicely throughout the film and it was wonderful to see it come to fruition.

Now. Did anyone else think that the chap playing Mr Wickham was a sort of Orlando Boom Lite?

Disclaimer: Any errors in reference to the book are all my fault. I haven't actually read it in years...