13 August 2013

The Golden Mean - Annabel Lyon

I picked this up after my cat knocked The Interestings off of my nightstand on the very day I was considering DNF'ing it. "Just a few pages," I thought to myself. "It's important to know if this is a reading rut or if it's just that book in particular."

Yea, fuck you glasses case!

Well, it was that book in particular.

Wolitzer's use of language was fantastic, but I found her story to be lacking. Similarly, Lyon's writing is engaging, but the story wasn't the crazy revelation of ancient hijinks that I was (for no particular reason) expecting. Instead, it was what I can only describe as... hazy. As if Aristotle were telling his story through the fog of old age, describing events and loves of his life without regard to things that didn't really affect him.

Things that affect teenaged me: Jared Leto's earnest face. And eyeliner.
Also hazy in that sense of, everything felt really hot and languid - that's the word, languid! Don't say it too many times or it won't sound like a word at all. It was a fascinating re-telling, in which Alexander the Great figured hardly at all - a bold choice for a story about the time in Aristotle's life when he was Alexander's tutor.

A tutor who neglected to explain about hairstyles, obvs. LORD that is some bad hair.
And Aristotle himself? Noooooot super-likeable. He was kind of a dick to his wife, Pythias, and there was this weird homoerotic tension between him and... well, everyone else. And then there was this awesome maid but she said something snappish to Aristotle while his wife was having their baby, so she got dismissed, end of her part in the story.

This is the weird thing about writing based on the actual life events of people: there's not really a purpose for a lot of things that happen IRL (as kids these days say), but I like fiction and tidy bows on things and emotionful reasons for dismissing your wife's favorite servant who may or may not have saved her life that one time. But instead? Aristotle dismissed her and we hear no more about her at all.

This is not why I read books.

But EVEN SO, I liked the writing and the book didn't make me grumpy even though I sound that way. ARISTOTLE makes me grumpy, with his servant-dismissing ways and his bizarre treatment of Alexander the Not-Yet-Great's seriously fucking weird behavior. How much of that is based on historical record? It sounds like that guy was seriously disturbed. Everything I know about him, I learned from reading Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George, and now this strange novel.

You would think I would know more about Alexander; many of my paternal relatives carry that name, and I have not one but TWO brothers named after Mr. the Great. But the more I learn, the more I think that maybe... not such a great guy.

Staaaahp being such a jerk, Alexander the Worst.
You'll have to forgive me, I've been watching New Girl all day and I'm feeling witty after a couple of glasses of wine and a very successful experience with my new Le Creuset stockpot. It'll pass soon.

7.5 out of 11 Literal Caves - Not Those Mind Caves Like Plato, Who Was Aristotle's Teacher