The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No writing today. Yesterday I did go through and cut about ten pages worth of useless leftovers late in the ms, because I didn't need to be especially alert for that.

Tonight I was reading a little of the Iliad, and the thing I don't like about it is the gods. It feels like every time somebody is making some crucial choice there's a break and the gods interfere. If I did that--cut away every time a character had to make a decision, and took it at least partially out of their hands--it would not only be frustrating to the reader, it would be bad writing because I'd be putting a protective layer over my characters. I think maybe (in the Iliad) if I look at what the characters think and do, and sort of blip the gods out in my mind, I might be able to see the real story unfolding without benefit of that protective layer.

I really don't care about the gods. There's nothing at stake for them. They can't be killed. They don't have anything important to lose or to gain. I do care about the humans, who can and do die in gorily poetic scenes (yeesh, the gore!). The gods seem to be just weak imitations of the humans, and they get in the way of the story (especially the emotional story), and they annoy me. The gods seem wimpy, while the humans are passionate and real.

I have spent time tonight trying (yet again) to get a version of the Tantalus/Pelops family storyline clear in my head. I say "a version" because I know the winding-path-of-a-storyline I want. It makes utter sense to me, even if it's not any of the most famous versions and half of the connections seem to be mostly mine and nobody else's. And I always get confused because there are so many people and multiple generations of cooking up one's young male relatives and serving them at a feast.

But the upshot is this (I wrote it down this time, so if I don't lose the paper I might have a chance of keeping it straight). Atreus and Thyestes were brothers. Violent, quarreling brothers. Some legends say one of them was peaceably given the throne of Mycenae, but other stories say they fought tooth and nail over the throne, and it make more sense to me that they kept shoving each other off because there was this running tally of seduction of sister-in-laws, more cannibalism (Atreus fed some of Thyestes' sons to him), and incest/rape.

This is important because Atreus' sons were Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon ended up being the big shot King of Mycenae--the most famous one, the one who led the Trojan War. Where legends fade out and get foggy, there is this mostly forgotten one about Agamemnon killing his cousin (one of Thyestes' surviving uncooked sons) and the cousin's infant son (Agamemnon dashed his brains out) and marrying the cousin's wife. The cousin's wife--this is only interesting if you already know what happens later--was Clytemnestra.

Hmm, must explain what happens later: Agamemnon sacrifices his and Clytemnestra's daughter to the gods so he can get a good sailing wind for Troy. So--according to this not-so-well known version--that would have been the second time he killed one of her children. IMO, you have to pretty much applaud her for killing him (which also happens later). He damn well deserved it, and too bad it didn't happen sooner.

But another thing that sort of clicks into place is that Clytemnestra's lover who helped/egged her on in the killing was one of Thyestes' other uncooked sons, Aegisthus.

The main point being that it looks to me like Clytemnestra got caught up in a violent family feud over a throne. Of course, that's only if you clear away a gazillion unrelated legends that say other things, like Clytemnestra's first husband (the uncooked cousin) was king of a place in modern-day Turkey. Why the son of Thyestes would be a king in Turkey, why Clytemnestra would be with him, and why Agamemnon would be over there killing him, I have no clue. It makes much more sense to me that Agamemon was continuing the family tradition of trying to wipe out the other branch and get and keep that Mycenean throne. And it makes sense that Clytemnestra would be sympathetic (and eventually become lovers with) the brother of her first husband, both enemies of Agamemnon (who killed two of her children and married her against her will).

In my decidedly unscholarly opinion, anyway.

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