From the monthly archives: September 2011

The Guardian ran my top 10 list of Classical stories.  I wish it could have been 20–sorry, Catullus and Cicero…

 

The Song of Achilles was featured on Channel 4 news in the UK!  Follow this link, then scroll down to click on the segment, “Homer Reworked.”  It was wonderful to get to talk about the Classics with journalist Katie Razzall and I love the clips of students saying which mythological characters are their favorites.

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Sunday, September 18thHere is a Q & A I did about The Song of Achilles for Ecco.  You can also find it on my author page.  Lots more news to come!

 

Wednesday, September 14th.  A wonderful day amidst the beautiful stone buildings and green countryside of Edinburgh.  Started the day off with a great conversation  with the lovely woman behind Cornflower Books.  I love her elegant and thoughtful writing about all things literary–definitely a must visit for book lovers.   She is currently offering a drawing for a free signed copy of The Song of Achilles.

Next up was a signing at the Main Street Trading Company, an award-winning bookshop, cafe and more, out in the Scottish Borders, run by the wonderful Rosamund and her husband Bill.  It is a welcoming, sunny bookworm’s dream–If you are ever in the area, definitely drop by.

Last, but not least, a signing at Waterstones on George Street in Edinburgh, organized by the terrific Sarah and Colin.  I had the pleasure of talking Classics with Dr. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Senior Lecturer at Edinburgh University, and an expert on modern adaptations of Classical works.  I signed a few stock copies as well, so if you are looking for a signed edition, George Street Waterstones is where to get them!

 

I just finished a wonderful, whirlwind trip to Dublin!  Lots of interviews to come out in the next few weeks, including a piece on “The View” and “Today with Pat Kenny,” an interview with Sue Leonard for her column “Beginner’s Pluck” in the Irish Examiner, and an interview with Edel Coffey for the Irish Independent.  Everyone was absolutely lovely–so warm and welcoming.  I also got to have dinner with the outstanding teacher and polymath Niall MacMonagle.

And I managed to see a few of the gorgeous sights.  Trinity College and the Book of Kells were breath-takingly beautiful, as was the National Gallery House.  And maybe most exciting of all: a terrific exhibit at the National Library on William Butler Yeats.  One of my favorite things (aside from getting to see the handwritten drafts of so many of his poems), was his school record, which noted that he was “very poor in spelling.”  I am so sorry to have to leave after only a brief 36 hours, but I can promise that I will be back!

 

The writer and journalist Viv Groskop reviewed The Song of Achilles for The Independent!  Here is a an excerpt below:

“For a whistlestop tour around the life and times of Achilles, you’d be hard pressed to find a better guide than Madeline Miller.  This accomplished and enjoyable novel…is original, clever and in a class of its own…an incredibly compelling and seductive read.  It does what the best novels do – it transports you to another world.”

For the full review, click here.

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An excerpt from Lesley McDowell’s review of The Song of Achilles in the Sunday Herald:

“Miller’s prose flows easily and poetically, and treats the relationship between the two men with sensitivity and skill… A fascinating debut.”

 

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In honor of all the students going back to school, I wanted to share one of my favorite Patroclus-related teaching stories.

In my middle-school Latin class, we were discussing which gods had taken which sides in the Trojan War.  I asked who was on the Greek side, and the students called out answers:
“Athena!”  “Hera!”  “Apollo!”
“No!” another student shouted.  “Apollo wasn’t on the Greek side.  Remember?  He pantsed that guy.”

The class paused.  In US slang, ‘pantsing’ refers to yanking someone’s trousers down as a prank, preferably in front of an audience.

“He did what?” I asked.
“Pantsed that guy.  On the walls, or something?  You told us he did!”

I ran back over every Trojan War myth, trying to find an incident that could possibly be interpreted as ‘pantsing.’  At last, light dawned.  The week before I had told them about Apollo knocking off Patroclus’ helmet and armor, to reveal that he wasn’t really Achilles.
“Do you mean Patroclus?”
“Yeah!  Him!”

I explained that pantsing wasn’t really a good term for it, since they didn’t wear pants in Homeric Greece.  The student listened to my explanation with polite tolerance.  Then turned to his neighbor, “See!  I told you he pantsed him.”

I can just imagine the student one day saying to his college professor: “Sure I know who Apollo is!  My teacher told us how he pantsed this guy…”

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I first encountered Homer’s Iliad as a young child, when my mother read it to me as a bedtime story.  It was love at first listen.  Here is a short essay I wrote about that, published today in The Independent’s “Book of a Lifetime” series.  In it, I mention one of my favorite similes from the Iliad,  describing Patroclus as he weeps for the dying Greek soldiers.  Here is the simile:

“Patroclus stood by Achilles, shedding warm tears like a darkened spring which pours its black streams down a steep rock.”  Iliad, 16.2-4

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Read the first two chapters of The Song of Achilles online, thanks to Bloomsbury’s great looking excerpt.  Also, check out Bloomsbury’s new book trailer for The Song of Achilles!