Posts Tagged ‘Percy Jackson’

Walter Read

5 March 2010

Dear J-

I’m reading a lot more lately, even if it is unfathomably fluffy stuff like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter; not sure if it’s inspired more by wanting to relive my youth or having to, given that our bedtime jobs are for me to read books and theVet to sing songs together with figgy. I woke up a little early so that I could finish The Last Olympian, in fact; despite me writing it off as being relatively unoriginal (Greek myth-based universe where the gods have survived and, unsurprisingly, continued to create more and more demigod children with the rest of us mortals), the books were a fun read and interesting enough to keep kids turning pages.

It’s got me thinking about the differences betwen cultural icons; in our Judo-Christian world, the God is a distant power, influencing everything, perfect, and yet relatively unknown, at least in comparison to the Greek gods, who loved to sport with humans and who wore their warts with some pride — jealousy and discord were never far from any Olympian gathering. God, it’s said, makes man in His image, and yet it seems we’ve made our stories in our image instead. The polyglot of United States citizens means that we’ve at least got a passing familiarity with many different influences, even if Greek gods underpin much of Western culture.

On the van yesterday one of our riders pointed out to me that the picture our company had chosen to represent the current Year of the Tiger was terrible: it was cartoony, but the mouth was hanging wide-open. It’s like the prohibition on certain gifts (no knives as wedding presents, for instance, as it represents severing a bond) or numbers (four is unlucky, as it’s a close homonym to the verb “to die” in Chinese which is why you don’t see too many cameras with four by itself in the numbering scheme); it is inauspicious to depict a tiger ready to pounce. There is still so much to learn about everything; we can only come to a better understanding of ourselves and our fellow citizens by keeping an open mind.



Percy Jackson

28 February 2010

Dear J-

We are reading the Percy Jackson series (and by we, I mean that theVet is impatiently waiting for me to catch up so that she doesn’t blurt out important plot spoiler points in normal conversation), which is going mostly well; the pacing is exciting, and the books experiencing the same sort of bloat that Harry Potter did (each book getting successively longer and fatter, filled with fun story nonetheless, but at the expense of page count). In fact, the clearest analog or inspiration could be said to be Harry and his success; you have the same elements of the fantastical mixed in with the mundane modern world. As we so often dream, these books offer an escape from the ordinary and hope that we can all be special regardless of how little the outside world may think of us.

There’s two issues with Percy’s story (in the scant two out of five books that I’ve read, so far). First, there’s no sense of world-building; second, the dialogue keeps grating on my ear. Sure, the fantastical is pretty amazing here, but it’s all grounded in Greek mythology; the point may be to get kids interested in those ancient tales and seek out the source information, but I can see them being happy with the peeks under the tablecloth that they’re given here — the endless torment of Tartarus, the voyage of Odysseus. Unlike Harry, which featured a unique and accessible universe, the enjoyment of Percy is directly tempered by how big of a Greek geek you were/are. There are multiple instances where I find myself wishing I had some reference (Edith Hamilton, where are you?) available that I could bounce back and forth to check story details.

The pacing is good but every so often a character’s line from the book falls flat in a way that tells me it’s a middle-aged guy who wrote it, not a line some adolescent might blurt out. It wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t yank me out of the story abruptly; dialogue is a tricky thing, and adolescent dialogue is doubly difficult. I find myself reading the words aloud to see if it resembles the spoken vernacular (often it does not, so I tweak them to fit). It’s easy to be a critic, though, instead of reading for enjoyment and this is an easy, fun read. Recommended, with the caveat that you’ll want to bone up on your Greek myths between books.