The Bad Boy of Athens: Classics from the Greeks to Game of Thrones
‘Mendelsohn takes the classical costumes off figures like Virgil and Sappho, Homer and Horace … He writes about things so clearly they come to feel like some of the most important things you have ever been told.’ Sebastian Barry
Over the past three decades, Daniel Mendelsohn’s essays and reviews have earned him a reputation as ‘our most irresistible literary critic’ (New York Times). This striking new collection exemplifies the way in which Mendelsohn – a classicist by training – uses the classics as a lens to think about urgent contemporary debates.
There is much to surprise here. Mendelsohn invokes the automatons featured in Homer’s epics to help explain the AI films Ex Machina and Her, and perceives how Ted Hughes sought redemption by translating a play of Euripides (the ‘bad boy of Athens’) about a wayward husband whose wife returns from the dead. There are essays on Sappho’s sexuality and the feminism of Game of Thrones; on how Virgil’s Aeneid prefigures post-World War II history and why we are still obsessed with the Titanic; on Patrick Leigh Fermor’s final journey, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autofiction and the plays of Tom Stoppard, Tennessee Williams, and Noël Coward. The collection ends with a poignant account of the author’s boyhood correspondence with the historical novelist Mary Renault, which inspired his ambition to become a writer.
In The Bad Boy of Athens, Mendelsohn provokes and dazzles with erudition, emotion and tart wit while his essays dance across eras, cultures and genres. This is a provocative collection which sees today’s master of popular criticism using the ancient past to reach into the very heart of modern culture.
Praise for The Bad Boy of Athens -
”'Mendelsohn takes the classical costumes off figures like Virgil and Sappho, Homer and Horace … He writes about things so clearly they come to feel like some of the most important things you have ever been told.” - Sebastian Barry
”'Captivating …His is a vast intellect spanning centuries and genres with ease.” - BBC Culture
”'Mendelsohn's points are always passionately argued. He strikes the perfect balance between learned and playful … One fascinating essay after another from one of America's best critics.” - Kirkus, starred review
Praise for Daniel Mendelsohn -
”'A scrumptious stylist … He writes better movie criticism than most movie critics, better theatre criticism than most theatre critics and better literary criticism than just about anyone’ Guardian 'A brilliant storyteller, influenced by the Greek masters he so admires” - The Times
”'Mendelsohn is now, and has been for some time, the finest critic alive … [The essays] proceed from an unparalleled understanding of the Greek and Roman roots of storytelling, which he braids into reviews with a subtlety and patience that is beautiful to behold … A supremely entertaining book” - Toronto Star
”'Mendelsohn … is a gifted and entertaining writer. His prose is gorgeous and lyrical and his subjects are smartly considered and freshly revealed” - Vanity Fair
”'Absolutely vital in both senses of the word - required reading for anyone interested in dissecting culture” - The Daily Beast
”'A joy from start to finish … A wonderfully eclectic set of musings on the state of contemporary culture and the enduring riches of classical literature” - Publishers Weekly