The Summer of Aeschylus & Other Summer Reading

beach_books(2)I am always fascinated by summer reading articles.  They tell us that we won’t be able to read classics on vacation.  They tell us we have vowed to read Proust, but won’t do it.  They tell us we will apparently be too stoned on ganja on that island to read.

Well, they won’t tell us that.

I’m not going to an island this summer.

For me it will be the summer of Aeschylus.

My deepest regret is that I didn’t take that Aeschylus seminar in graduate school.  (Writing a freelance feature on my wedding day wasn’t a good choice, but it wasn’t life-changing.)

Aeschylus Prometheus BoundIf I could go back in time,  I would enroll in the Aeschylus seminar.

So now you see why I have to read Aeschylus.

I am making up for the semester that was my last chance to take an Aeschylus seminar.

This summer I will read parts of Aeschylus in Greek, parts in English.

I have begun with the David Grene translation of Prometheus Bound.

Bright light, swift-winged winds, springs of the river, numberless
laughter of the sea’s waves, earth, mother of all, and the all-seeing
circle of the sun:  I call on you to see what I, a God, suffer
at the hands of Gods–
see with what kind of torture
worn down I shall wrestle ten thousand
years of time–

As Grene says in the introduction,

We are never told why Zeus wished to destroy man.  There is no indication what sort of animal he wished to put in his place, but, insofar as Prometheus in disobedience to Zeus enlightened man by the gift of intelligence, it may be assumed that Zeus’s creation would have had no such dangerous potentialities of development.

Prometheus says:

In helping man I brought my troubles on me;
but yet I did not think that with such tortures
I should be wasted on these airy cliffs–

It is the Summer of Aeschylus.

OTHER SUMMER READING.  It is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. What do you think of the new cover for the Penguin Deluxe Classic edition of Fear of Flying?

Fear of Flying erica jong

Erica Jong’s heroine’s “zipless fuck” doesn’t look like much fun here, does it?  I mean, just lying there, unzipped?

I prefer the more feminist rendering of the “zipless” on the old cover art.

Erica Jong Fear of Flying originalAnd I prefer Jong’s narrative to the cover art.

What do you think?

I am now reading Jong’s fascinating sequel to FOF, How to Save Your Own Life, which has given me more ideas for summer reading.

How to Save Your Own LIfe erica JongThe heroine, Isadora Wing, now a famous writer, is stuck reading galleys of friends’ novels.

Reading was becoming more and more of a chore. I yearned for the days when I could sitdown with a copy of Bleak House or Tom Jones without thinking guiltily of the galleys on the floor by my desk.

Should I read Bleak House again?

Perhaps Tom Jones is more in the spirit of Jong’s books.

Tom_Jones_by_Henry_FieldingI do like this cover.

8 thoughts on “The Summer of Aeschylus & Other Summer Reading

  1. Aeschylus is an interesting choice. Do let us know how you get on. As far as the other books you mention are concerned, I read Fear of Flying when it first came out, and hated it so much I’ve never been able to bring myself to reread it, or try anything else by Jong. Tom Jones may be more in the spirit of her books – it’s great fun, a wonderful picaresque romp – but my money would be on Bleak House every time.


  2. Read them all. I need more Aeschylus in my life too, but just now I’m doing Euripides. I find he is a proto-feminist. I read Jong who is an all-out feminist many years ago and don’t think I’m ready to return yet. Bleak House I have read twice, and if I live long enough I’ll probably do it again. What I really want to say is that I am currently reading Tom Jones which I must have read 50 years ago (yes, I’m that old). It is just as much fun as I remembered, although I do think he goes on too long. I thought that about the last Handel opera too — all that gorgeous singing, how long can they keep it up!


  3. I love the Aeschylus. Thanks for typing it out, especially that first passage. I tried last night what people might call “summer reading:” Mary Wesley’s Jumping the Queue, about a woman unexpectedly widowed who wants to kill herself. It doesn’t sound like a light book, yet it’s written in such simple prose that it feels light. Too light. I can’t get on with it. It’s too easy reading. Isn’t that odd, but there it is. If something supposed unconventional lies ahead (and I see that, she admits her children have no interest in her, or, as they are, she them; she and her husband hoped to die together so saved nothing and meant to leave no burdens &c&), but somehow without the depth of feeling or thought felt in that Aeschylus — or in Tom Jones in another register Fielding – it leaves me flat.


  4. Your classical reading always intrigues me, Kat.

    I have an ancient hardcover edition of ‘Tom Jones’ that doesn’t have a copyright date but is inscribed’ LT Atwood December 1903′. I haven’t read it. I do wish it had the delicious cover that you show.

    As for FofF, I read it so long ago that the only thing I remember, of course, is the ZF. As for the new cover, it is just plain nasty!


  5. Christine, I remember being less enthusiastic than many about FOF, but the sequel, How to Save Your Own Life, is very readable and intelligent. I’d love to reread Bleak House.

    SilverSeason, You’re right, Jong is an all-out feminist, but oddly enough she didn’t seem as radical as I was back then, so I probably underrated the book. In How to Save Your Own Life, I love the way she’s so frank about Isadora Wing’s angst and sexuality. Euripides always seems very modern, though he wasn’t quite as feminist as we all think.

    Ellen, Aeschylus is amazing, and the translations of the Greek are stunning, and it’s hard to find a more passionate writer. I did enjoy Mary Wesley’s books. She was, what, 60ish, when she wrote them? But they are light novels, yes. For summer reading I like classics because there’s more daylight.


  6. Belle, 1903! You do have the best collection of books. (And by the way, I did see the photos of your books at A Work in Progress. All those beautiful hardcovers! Ours are in messy piles on the floor!)

    Yes, the ZF is what I remembered, too. I’m glad I’m not alone in disliking the new cover.


  7. Hate the Jong cover – it makes the book look like porn. As for your classical reading – go for it! I’ve always thought a break from work should be the time to sink into something long, huge and absorbing and classics are just that!


  8. Kaggy, I couldn’t agree with you more! I feel out-of-step with the modern age, but I couldn’t read this one in public. Perhaps Coralie Bickford would have been a better choice for the designer here…


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