A while back I realized I’d bought several novels simply because their jacket copy invoked Nabokov in some shape or form, e.g., “reads like a crazy love child of Nabokov and Gogol” or “prose so dazzling you’ll feel like Nabokov walks among us again.”
It turns out I’ll also buy anything that says “Illustrated by Edward Gorey” on the cover. Most recent example: Men and Gods, which NYRB just put out. It’s a beautiful little book; it’s a small hardcover and the whole presentation — size, type style, the mint color of the cover — is pleasingly reminiscent of old middle-school library books. (I can’t help but think what a nice Valentine’s Day present it would make.)
I’ve been reading a lot of Greek mythology lately, and with the more in-depth books – meaning here anything more difficult than D’Aulaires — I’m finding certain bits hard-going before bed. Here is a typical passage from Warner, with a track of my comprehension:
Jason knew the story of Phrixus, since he had been told this and other stories of gods and heroes by the centaur Chiron. [We’re good.] He also knew that Phrixus had been related to him, since his own grandfather had been the brother of Athamas, who in the end had been driven mad by Juno [Still good.], but who had had by his first wife, Nephele, two children who were called Phrixus and Helle. [Faltering but still following.] Later Athamas had married Cadmus’s daughter Ino [and I’m out.]…
I blame my mother for not making me read the Bible more as a child.