Châteaureynaud in Kate Bernheimer’s xo Orpheus

September 21st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


xo Orpheus

“Icarus flies once more,” begins Penguin’s press release for Kate Bernheimer’s anthology XO Orpheus. It goes on:

Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse—his cremains in a bullet. Here, in beguiling guise, are your favorite mythological figures alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, and other traditions.

Exciting, right? In XO Orpheus, “Fifty leading writers retell myths from around the world in this dazzling follow-up to the bestselling My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me,” which won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud’s story “An Occasional Icarus” features in a star-studded table of contents including Aimee Bender, Emma and Peter Straub, Heidi Julavits, Maile Meloy, Joy Williams, Sheila Heti, Edith Pearlman, Ben Loory, Brian Evenson, and more. I’m delighted to have gotten Châteaureynaud into this collection, as well as an excerpt from David B.’s The Armed Garden, from Kim Thompson’s Fantagraphics translation. Kate Bernheimer, founder and editor of the literary journal Fairy Tale Review, is the author of the story collections Horse, Flower, Bird and How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales, among many other books. As she puts it:

If “xo” signals a goodbye, then xo Orpheus is a goodbye to an old way of mythmaking. Featuring talkative goats, a cat lady, a bird woman, a beer-drinking ogre, a squid who falls in love with the sun, and a girl who gives birth to cubs, here are extravagantly imagined, bracingly contemporary stories, heralding a new beginning for one of the world’s oldest literary traditions.

A starred review from Booklist says:

Edith Hamilton, the great classicist who made Greek mythology accessible, is officially put on notice by this explosive anthology of reimagined myths. Demeter, a divorced mom, struggles with the half-year custody of her daughter. Narcissus, a tart-tongued partier, offers lodging to a bewitching street urchin named Echo. And a Vietnam veteran, in the spirit of Daedalus, builds an emotional labyrinth for his son.

In this searing yet ebullient collection, contemporary authors and one graphic artist move beyond merely updating classic myths of multiple cultures by performing gut-rehabs while maintaining the stark, terrifying moments of fate-altering choices. Outsized appetites figure prominently—for power, perfection, or even one’s own children… The form is as inventive as the content… as these new myths attest, the frightening, timeless themes remain.


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