I Haven’t Made Up My Mind About The Penelopiad

I have mixed feelings about Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. I appreciate that it wasn’t a time consuming epic nor was it a complex interpretation of the bible, and I did enjoy reading it. I liked how nicely it fit the theme of repetition compulsion, and how it added an alternate interpretation of Penelope and the maids. However, I just can’t make up my mind about it. For instance, I strongly dislike cliches like “a dime a dozen” (page 7) ¬†and I generally dislike this style of relatively sloppy and informal prose (like the beginning of chapter iii on page 7 that starts with “Where shall I begin?”). But in the case of The Penelopiad I think it’s justifiable. The modern and relaxed style of the prose and the language is used to contrast the ancient setting and themes with a modern setting and style. I appreciate that aspect of it, however, those same themes of contrasting the past with the present with the aid of allusions to famous classical literature are fundamental parts of a great number of works of fiction. Of course, that is hardly the only important point in The Penelopiad, but it is the only way I can convince myself to like Atwood’s voice. I unfortunately read through the novella quickly and it is fairly late in the night as I write this. I might be wrong about something, and there is a lot I have not addressed. I still have to think about it more before I can actually determine whether or not I think it is good or bad, and I’m afraid this blog post may have made me seem like an elitist who only reads “sophisticated” literature by authors like Herman Melville and despises more modern (or postmodern) aesthetics, which is not the case.

-Griffin

2 thoughts on “I Haven’t Made Up My Mind About The Penelopiad

  1. Christina Hendricks

    I don’t think you sound like an elitist in this post. Maybe that’s because I share the concern expressed here about the voice. Actually, I really didn’t like it at first (still am not sure how I feel, but dislike it less than at first). I couldn’t understand why Penelope was speaking like a 21st century young adult, and one who doesn’t have a great vocabulary at that. I didn’t see the point. I’m not sure I do yet, but I like what you said here about juxtaposing the ancient and modern, and this book really does make the contrast clear.

    Also, on another note, can you activate a plugin that allows commenters to receive an email if there is a reply to their comment? Go to “plugins” on the left on your dashboard, and then the plugin called “subscribe to comments” (or something like that). Click “activate” on the right. Then, if someone wants to be notified if there is a reply to their comment, they can check a box after their comment to get an email!

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    1. Griffin Anderson-Baier Post author

      I’m happy to hear that you didn’t think it made me sound like I’m an elitist, I always feel self-conscious about criticizing things for reasons like it being informal and seeming sloppy without explaining myself in depth. I feel like my opinions about the voice are constantly changing, which made writing the blog post not too long before midnight difficult because I felt like my opinions were all over the place and I kept on rewriting it until I had to just post it. I also really didn’t like the voice much at first and I found it somewhat irritating during the first few chapters but it definitely grew on me (at least to a small extent). It felt like a weird choice to me given the context of the story and I’m not sure if it’s just a quirky anachronism or if it is fundamental to understanding the whole point of the novella. I plan on taking my time to think about it some more, and if manage to wrap my head around it all then I’ll focus on it in my presentation on Friday.

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