I recently finished Madeline Miller’s very excellent The Song of Achilles, Clive Hicks-Jenkins had suggested I read it, so I was quick to order a copy for myself. I had heard of the novel, I had read a scathing review of it in the New York Times and foolishly I held back from reading it. The reviewer, Daniel Mendelsohn , was ruthless (from my persective) in his criticism of the novel. Most of his harsh judgment seemed aimed at the unabashedly romantic depiction of Achilles and Patroclus, comparing it to Dawson’s Creek – about as a cruel a comparison I can think of.
Mendelsohn takes Miller to task for stating the obvious (to him at least) – the romantic nature of their relationship .
The truth is their relationship while implied, is not a given fact to the population at large as Mendelsohn asserts. There is a sacredness to their narrative, a romance held dear by a great many gay folks through time, that was secret and coded. It is no small matter that Alexander and Hephaestion made a pilgrimage to their tomb. If Miller’s prose was too purple for Mendelsohn then frankly that is too bad; I for one relished the evocative images she created. It is high time for some frank, direct depictions of gay love, culturally we have settled for the implied. Miller gave us a sweeping romance, I thank Miller for that, florid or not. In response I created an equally purple image of the two re-united for eternity in the Underworld.
Mendelsohn and his ilk will just hate it.
The Shades of Achilles and Patroclus
graphite, watercolor,pastel on paper
Take care, be well,
2 thoughts on “From today’s notebook: The Shades of Achilles and Patroclus”
I think it’s always an act of honesty and courage when one speaks from the heart.