Book Summary: Pat Parker, Neil Gaiman

Fiction does not always appear out of thin air. Sometimes writers draw from ancient stories–myths, history, ancient epics–when crafting new stories. One might find in this rewriting an opportunity to recast a famous character as a villain, as in Daisy Lafarge’s novel, peewhich “uses the thoroughly contemporary story of a traumatized graduate of her year in Europe in order to boldly reinterpret Gauguin’s life and legacy,” according to Ella Fox Martens, and forces us to ask questions Why do we still sell and consume the artist’s work. Or one might choose to give a voice to those silenced by history. in Pat Parker silence girlsthe novelist imagined the Trojan War from the perspective of Bryce, a minor female character in The Iliad whom Achilles considered a slave. In doing so, it highlightsHow history treats men and women differently‘,” wrote Sophie Gilbert, urging readers to ask, ‘How many stories like this one remain to be told? “

Authors may revisit past events through fiction as a way of examining historical trauma. in his novel Hystopia, David Maines takes us back to 1970’s America. In this alternate world, John F. Kennedy served as a third term president and he launched a mental health initiative for traumatized soldiers—one based on the idea that narrative, and Relive traumatic events can help erase them, writes Amy Weiss-Meyer. But revisiting an existing story can sometimes be more complicated. Neil Gaiman ad Norse mythology adaptation It sparked controversy as to whether he had a right to these stories. According to Lisa L. Hannett, “a group of so-called Pagans seems to fear his inevitable misunderstanding of their religious beliefs,” although the book has yet to be released.

The act of retelling does not only apply to stories from the past. in the short storyhum ShanghaiBy Te-Ping Chen, the story’s heroine, Xiaolei, envisions alternate versions of her life, making her desires, for a moment, a reality. Many of us, book or not, may benefit from the practice of imagining more favorable dates, as well as a better life.

every friday in book summarywe bond together Atlantic Stories about books that share similar ideas. Do you know other book lovers who might love this guide? Send them this email.

When you buy a book using a link in this newsletter, we receive a commission. Thank you for your support Atlantic Ocean.


what we read

Painting by Paul Gauguin showing a woman in blue walking in front, two women sitting on the grass and a woman sitting in front of a house, two women walking in the background

art institute of chicago

Shattering the legend of Paul Gauguin

“By reconstructing one of the giants of artistic law as an irredeemable villain, the novel makes it impossible to separate art from artist. The titular figure, Paul, evocation of Gauguin, is so reprehensible that we are compelled to condemn him—and thus Gauguin himself, by extension.”


1st century fresco depicting Perese (right) led from the tent of Achilles (left)

Naples National Archaeological Museum / Wikimedia Commons

The Silence of the Women of Classical Literature

“Can women’s stories often be believed if hearing women’s stories was not at all a new phenomenon? If narratives about women had not been ignored and erased for centuries, while songs, plays, and books celebrated the bravery of the men who offended them?”


Photo of David Maines in front of the cover photo of the book Hystopia

Max Mean / Farrar, Strauss & Giroud / Zach Bickle / The Atlantic

Hystopia: an ambitious and miserable novel of the vietnam war

“Some stories, Means suggests, are so explosive that they invite countless retellings, shedding new light—and darkness as well.”


In this illustration, Odin rides into battle and directs his spear toward the open mouth of the wolf Fenrir, Thor defends against the serpent Jörmungander with a shield while wielding his hammer Mjölnir and Frere and the smoldering Battle of Sirte, a massive battle rages around and over the Bifröst rainbow bridge behind them.

Wikimedia Commons

Norse Mythology Retelling Policy

“The seeds of these stories have been sown a long time ago now, and there is no way of knowing which branches have sprung from which roots – only that centuries past have not prevented them from growing. Gaiman’s retelling adds another leaf to this ancient tree: it is not a new species in itself, But it is rather a new sign that the old tree is still thriving.”


Picture of flowers and the Shanghai skyline

Lee Hui

hum Shanghai

“Back in the village, when she was not yet a teenager, I watched a popular TV show that depicted the lives of two women in a big-city apartment upholstered entirely in white—a white leather sofa, a white tufted rug, white lilies—and his apartment was depicted like that. They were sitting next to each other. Some on the couch. He was pressing her like a boss from a packing factory, only this time, she wouldn’t resist.”


information about us: This week’s newsletter written by Maya Chung. The book you will read next is strangers to ourselvesWritten by Rachel Aviv.

Comments, questions and typos? Reply to this email to contact the Books Briefing team.

Did you get this newsletter from a friend? Register yourself.

Leave a Comment