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How Far From Myth To Reality, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:08am

A few notes on entertainment. What’s myth? What’s reality? What do those terms mean in the context of narrative? Oh never mind theory.

I have read a book that I can endorse 100%. I’m referring to Circe, by Madeline Miller. It is, as you’d expect, a retelling of the myth of Circe, the enchantress with whom Odysseus, well, spent some time on his way home to Ithaca.

It’s been a long time since I read a book that made me feel this seen. All along I read passages aloud in an passionate voice, I shouted, virtually, “Yes!” throughout the narrative. And yet as far as I know I have never turned anyone into a pig.

A list of possibilities as to why I loved it so: the fierceness of motherhood; the experience of coming in second in the halls of power (always); the magic of plants.

At the other end of the spectrum of myth to reality, I’ve been watching Instagram stories by a young man who is improving, all by himself, his old house in Kingston, New York. Daniel Kanter writes the blog Manhattan Nest and posts his Instagram stories here. I wait in joyful anticipation for his next installment. First he redid someone else’s kitchen. Who knew that videos of repurposing cabinets would be so compelling? Now he’s fixing up his entryway, which has required refinishing the spindles of his staircase to show their beautiful old wood.

I am perhaps even less likely to refinish a staircase than to turn people into pigs.

I like Circe and Daniel because they approach problems with full attention, they persist, and by the end both have found or created something beautiful where nothing of the sort might have been expected.

Mahogany spindles and love.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.


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31 Responses

  1. Added to my Kindle. It doesn’t sound like something I would have bought but for your recommendation, so glad to hear you think that it’s wonderful.

  2. I’m happy to just dust my staircase spindles. Let alone refinish. I’m with you, though, on not having turned anyone into a pig. Well, except maybe my husband when I make apple pie.

  3. This is an amazing coincidence! I just bought this very book this morning. I was at my local bookstore to buy The Dutch House and saw Circe on the shelf. I was immediately drawn to it and decided on the spot that I wanted to read it. Now I am so glad to read here that you endorse it 100%.

  4. I must read that book. It’s on my list since I love her character. I’ve been worried the book might not live up to the myth but you’ve convinced me of its merits. Thank you!

  5. Thank-you for the reading recommendation. It’s high time I tried fiction again.
    I love that stairwell finished or unfinished.

    Have a good week-end!


  6. I have been listening to it on Audible and enjoying every rollicking bit, going from terror to laughter in a few sentences. My husband and I caught the old house bug from Bob Villa and we are still pursuing that dream. Watching people renovate is not only instructional on how to do things, but also on what you should never dream of doing.

  7. I loved Circe as well!
    Haven’t read Mr. Kanter’s blog, but I wonder if you might enjoy Escape to the Chateau. A BBC reality show that follows an English family as they buy and restore a rundown, 45-room, 19th-century Chateau in the French countryside … with limited funds but apparently inexhaustible skills, creativity, and good humour.

    1. @Frances, Oh I’m so glad, island one, that you also loved the book:). And I am looking to find a place to watch Escape, so far no luck, but I will keep my eyes open.

  8. Oh, I just loved Circe, and I normally hate myth stories..I also loved Madelyn Millers other book, The Song of Achilles..I wept through the end.. both books were winners at my book club- which is a rare thing!

  9. Daniel’s blog is amazing. His ability to renovate and transform his home is impressive. He also explains the design and building process which I find very interesting. I’ll look for Circe as well.

    1. @Susan, He’s such a good communicator. Have you seen any of his Instagram stories? I love them almost more than the blog, which surprises me.

  10. Does anyone see a women’s face in that jacket on the staircase? Just felt like Circe right there!

  11. I love old house journeys like Mr. Kanter’s – thanks for the recommendation. And that book sounds very interesting, I’ll add it to my list.

  12. Hello Lisa, If turning people into pigs is the litmus test, then Circe is certainly alive and well today.

    Daniel Kanter’s blog reminds me of the original Old House Journal. Before it turned into a glitzy magazine it was full of practical advice like that which Kanter presents. My ambition once was to buy an old house and restore it myself, but like my orchard that seems to be a receding goal.

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