Saturday, January 05, 2008

Holy Belated Book Report, Batman!

What can I say? Short weeks always mess me up. Friday morning I started planning my book report in my head and then it hit me it was Friday and I was late...

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is a comedic book about the down-and-out Greek Gods, who live in present day London. Some have adapted, so have not: Zeus has gone a bit senile, Aphrodite is a phone-sex operator, Dionysus runs a cool club, Eros a Christian evangelical, Apollo tries his hand at fortune-telling on TV (mixed in with turning girls who won't sleep with him into trees)... and the most prominent god in the book, Artemis? Well, she walks dogs. They live in a dilapidated townhouse, all living in fear of losing what remains of their powers once and for all. That and taking petty snipes and revenges on each other whenever possible (hey, you would get sick of our flatmates, too if you had lived with them the last 400 years!). One of these petty revenges causes their lives to intersect with Alice, a young woman who works as a cleaner, and Neil - the man who secretly loves her. The resulting events take you on a tour of the Underworld and Upperworld and show you what constitutes a hero.

I mentioned this book in my last book meme post, and as I have already mentioned, it was a fun read. Perhaps not as original as I would have liked. A few years ago I read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which has a premise that is similar (painfully so at times) to Gaiman's book. The bookflap states that Phillips had worked as a bookseller, so she must have heard of Gaiman - a prolific and popular British writer himself. I would recommend American Gods to anyone - I enjoyed it immensely.

As a child I was fascinated by Greek myths - I think my mother bought me D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths more than once as a child because I kept on wearing out the copy I had. I was fascinated about the theory that there could be more than one God - a guess part of me thought that to be a more practical application of worship - get straight to the heart of the matter.

Like Bezzie, I originally heard about this book on NPR, so I looked it up at my local library. Yes, Bezzie, the book is mainstream - in my book journal where I am categorizing these things, I struggled to even note it as a fantasy. In my mind it is fiction - any residual powers these gods have are not necessarily the crux of the story (I know some may argue that). The bigger story is how they have all dealt with their waning abilities and the people they have become.


Afternote -

One thing I really enjoyed in this book is Phillips' use of language. My favourite line? In descibing Hera, Phillips writes:

"She had hair the color of blackmail, a spine as straight as a guillotine, and a face that could sink ships."


tara said...

I'm sure I wont find it in my library but will have to pick it up. It sounds interesting. I look forward to more book reports.

Shan said...

Yeah, "slightly disappointed" would be my two-word review on this one. Or maybe "almost good".

Lauren said...

That sounds like an interesting book. I've never read American Gods so I wouldn't notice the unoriginal ideas. :)

Kaye said...

Ha ha, I use that face sinking ships line for ugly people all the time.

Even though it's mainstream, your book report is better than what they had on NPR!

Nell said...

Even the cover is interesting! I didn't get through American Gods. But I might have to try that again.

Batty said...

I know I'm running a risk of getting stoned to death, but I don't like Gaiman's prose. I think he's pretentious and enamored of his own research (not education, that's different). His prose is clumsy, which was a big disappointment to me because when you give him a graphic novel to work on, it turns into pure gold.

So for that reason alone, this book is probably worth checking out. I like a good laugh, particularly when I don't sense "look at all the cool mythological and symbolic things I know, my dear, ignorant reader" behind every paragraph.