Tonight in London, American Madeline Miller won the 2012 Orange Prize for her debut novel The Song of Achilles [Kindle], narrated by his lover Patroclus. This ought to be the Band of Thebes-iest book of the decade; alas, I could never get in step with the novel's style. I agreed with gay classicist Dan Mendelsohn who thoughtfully, elegantly, swiftly speared and slaughtered it in the pages of the NYT Book Review:
"The real Achilles’ heel of this book is tone — one made disastrously worse by the author’s decision to metamorphose an ancient story of heroes into a modern tale of hormones....The problem reaches crisis proportions in the handling of the “love affair,” which begins with an embarrassing breathlessness and climaxes — sorry! — in the long-awaited and, it must be said, cringe-inducing consummation...Why is this so awful? Partly it’s the swoony soft-porn prose, but in the end it’s something much more significant, something that gets to the heart of why Miller’s book doesn’t swell or ripen into a meaningful engagement with the ancient literary tradition, as any serious attempt to appropriate the classics must."
Orange Prize jury chair novelist Joanna Trollope does herself no favors by overstepping to drag in Homer's approval of Miller's efforts: “This is a more than worthy winner — original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her.” (Not to trump a Trollope, but Homer is where I live. He would hate it.) Mendelsohn says Mary Renault "would have found this book distasteful in the extreme."
If you're looking for a once in a lifetime brilliant reimagining of an ancient gay affair, read Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian about the great emperor's love for the teen Antinous.