Monday, August 16, 2010
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony is a mind-bending book. Robert Colasso starts by retelling a myth and then begins retelling its permutations, only to eventually shift to analysis and questioning of mythic permutations over time. I quite enjoyed this approach: tell the story, tell its variations, then muse on its significance. Because I'm too intellectually lazy to really get at what I want to say after a weekend at the beach, I'll do what lame reviewers in newspapers do, and compare it to other writers' books. Oh, wait--I can't do that, because this book is absolutely unique in my experience. But wait: I can use the next cheap trick of lazy reviewers, and imagine a combo of writers getting together, and say this is the sort of book Robert Graves would have co-written with Jacques Barzun, had they worked together. Nah. Let's simply say that I really felt Greek myths differently while reading Colasso; I came to suspect he knew something about the shift in consciousness necessary to get these stories as a true Pagan would. If you've ever seen Fellini's Satyricon--and if you're one of the few people who don't hate it--you might understand what I'm trying clumsily to get at here. This book really transfixed (-posed?) me in special ways.
I started to think and see the world a bit differently after reading some passages about the Eleusian Mysteries. Strange things occured. Here's an example: We were at the beach this weekend, and I read about 60 pages of Colasso on the sand Sunday before hitting the surf. The waves were high and strong but the undertow was surprisingly gentle. I was frozen for a few seconds in aesthetic arrest by the magnificent marbling effect of foam on clear bluish-green waves, glinting in sunlight, as I bobbed further out in the surf, seeking suitable body-surfing swells.
I was thinking about going back to work in a new school this week, and how I wanted this trip to cleanse all the muck away from my previous experience in Baltimore City schools, and I invoked Poseidon and Appollo and dove too late under a particularly large wave which bashed me to the bottom, spun me topsy-turvy, and planted me foot-first into some terribly sharp object which pierced my left heel. Of course you're thinking Achilles, as was I, having just read about Achilles a few moments before, and I hopped a few steps in the chaotic and gorgeous waves to get my foot above the surface, and there was a spikey black crab claw with one fat barb deep in my foot. I pulled it out, flung it into the sea, and thanked Poseidon and Apollo for their blessing. Or their warning? As for the Crab: he and I are old enemies. I've eaten many of him, and he's tried to kill me. And my sister. But I fear him not.