Several years ago, the Scottish publishing company Canongate Books had a brilliant idea to get together a whole lot of incredible writers and have each of them write a book that would retell a myth of their choosing. In the past month, I've read two from the series and I'm ready for more.
I started the series with two of my favorite authors -- the first being Philip Pullman who wrote the His Dark Materials Trilogy. You may have heard of the book he wrote for the Myths series, simply because the title is somewhat provocative -- The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. Now when I first heard about this book, my excitement was difficult to contain. I've read everything he had written and couldn't wait for more. At the same time, I watched as the press sensationalized what I figured would be much less controversial than it at first appeared.
So what is this book about the "Scoundrel Christ"? Simply put, it is a novel, a work of fiction, in which it is imagined that Jesus had a twin brother who was the catalyst for his success as a prophet and leader of a new religion. It is a story about the seed that becomes the myth -- a story about the birth of the story. Yes, it's about Jesus, so the baggage is there and certain people will ban this book. All the controversy aside, the book is quite good and a very interesting read.
Then I read The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood, of whom I am obviously a fan, having read three of her books in the last several months. She brings wit and spunk to the tale of Penelope, Odysseus' faithful wife. A great re-imagining based on a mix of fact and fiction, Atwood entertains and informs -- one again touching on the idea of story while adding in a good does of feminism.
I think the next book from the myths series that I would like to read is Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth which was actually the first book in the series.