Ambiguous Actions of the Gods
Posted by Literary Titan
Odysseus continues the story in Homer’s Odyssey and recounts the Greek hero’s final quest to settle his debt with Poseidon. What inspired you to write a story that continues Odysseus’s journey?
It all starts with the impetus for the trilogy which I mention in my introduction: How can one of our greatest English poets hold simultaneously in his mind the great virtues and genocide? To explore this question I finally came up with the trilogy dealing with men on journeys important to them and which can involve actions that involve questions in themselves. As well, I wanted to show the universality of these issues by covering the three thousand years in which great works have explored their periods. Odysseus was the best starting point, particularly that second voyage barely hinted at in the Odyssey. He is particularly interesting because he is not only a hero but because he not only does noble actions but shows darker traits and ambivalence as well; and the continual ambiguous actions of the gods reveals a society uncertain always of its future.
I enjoyed Odysseus’s character in this book. What were some driving ideals behind the way you developed his character?
It’s interesting to explore what the creative process is about. There is a very good scholarly examination of how the character has been seen over the ages: W.B. Stanford’s The Ulysses Theme. I could understand why his character had initiated so many responses; but that is only the beginning. I don’t write from principles, I write to describe the character living in my mind (as an actor, I actually create the character physically), and although the structure has to be there (in this case, it went through five changes in the chart), when I write I am actually describing what I’m living in my mind.
Much like in the original epic Odysseus encounters many obstacles along his path. What was the writing process like to bring these to life using your poetic style?
The first choice must be the style in which the story will be written, which involves not only the time in which it first occurred, when ancient Greek hexameters and flexibility of where words could be placed in the sentence are impossible to duplicate in English, but also this present time and this present audience with very different mores, etc. I decided to use the present form that some translators have used (although there have been some others, such as Christopher Logue’s brilliant modern adaptation of the original). I also decided to let the events and characters reveal themselves, and although I still used some of the original epic’s conventions, I tried to let the story reveal itself, but in a poetic fashion. In this I kept in my mind the memory of a Doctoral graduate from Greece who was examining various translations of Oedipus Rex and attended some of my seminars on theatre esthetics. She told me that when Aeschylus’ plays were performed in its ancient Greek, the language was so powerful that the hair would rise on the necks of the performers. I am far more humble in what I expect my poetry to do, although it is poetry, and I “sing” the action as I imagine it.
This is book one in your On The River of Time series. What can readers expect in book two, Spenser?
It might be interesting to know that in the early drafts I wrote successively the cantos of each of the three books: Canto One of Odysseus, then Canto One of Spenser, then Canto One of Archer, and so on. I realized early on that with so many cantos to write it would take an extraordinarily long time, and so I forced myself to write a canto a month, at least thirty pages, and in the different styles necessary. As a result, the stories themselves are entirely separate (sly hint—not altogether) and roughly are structured in the same way. Odysseus was a mythical figure; Spenser is an historical figure; Archer is a fictional character. But knowledge of the historical Spenser is sparse, and although most of what I write is true to history, there is also some speculative. The book explores the last four months of Spenser’s life, which was filled with tragedy and memories of his past life. It also brings to life the Elizabethan court and an Ireland filled with strife. It also suggests an answer to the question first posed that started the trilogy.
About Literary TitanThe Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.
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