I make it no secret that The Song of Achilles is my all time favourite book. After all, I have 6 different copies and am constantly purchasing more (I might have a problem)! So when I heard that Madeline Miller was going to be at Parnassus Books in Nashville, I knew there was nothing on Olympus or in the Underworld that could keep me from going.
For those of you poor souls that haven’t heard of The Song of Achilles, I have a gushing review. If you’re a classics fan, if you’ve read the Iliad, or even if you had that Percy Jackson phase, I 1000% recommend.
Her next book, Circe, is about the goddess with the same name. It’s a sort of retelling of The Odyssey from Circe’s perspective and gives insight into her life in a way that ancient mythology didn’t delve into. Now, I haven’t read The Odyssey in years and I barely remember Circe at all. In fact, the only reason I know her name is the role she played in Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. I look forward to hearing more about her character. From the excerpts I’ve read and from the answers that Madeline Miller gave during the event, I can’t wait to read about a badass goddess that uses witchcraft and turns men into pigs.
It came as a shock, but apparently, in Greek mythology, divine power and witchcraft are considered different. Whereas divine power is simple and straightforward, witchcraft is hands on and gritty.
I must have looked like the nerdiest person there. Not only did I sit in the first row (right next to V.E. Schwab who I could not for the life of me bring myself to talk to), I wore a sweatshirt that said ‘Patroclus’ right across the front and hugged my stack of assorted SoA copies. I’m positive that I had the most books out of everyone (5 as opposed to the 1-2 that most people had). By the time I reached the front of the signing line I stammered out how amazing The Song of Achilles was and that it changed my life. Madeline Miller is the nicest person ever, guys, because she commented on how she noticed my shirt in the crowd and instantly thought “I need to meet that girl!” My inner fangirl was screaming. How I wasn’t a sobbing mess is beyond me.
As if my swooning over her book wasn’t enough, I just had to hold up the line to ask questions. The #1 question that was swirling around my brain was “Why did you make Patroclus pacifistic when, in The Iliad, he’s seen as second to Achilles?” Patroclus is freaking badass and a crazy fighter, so seeing him so tame was different. In case you were wondering, my boy Pat made the second most kills in Homer’s story just behind Diomedes and ahead of Achilles. It takes Hector, some random dude, and freaking god Apollo to take him down! Her response was simply that she pulled the idea from Troilus and Cressida instead of Homer.
My #2 question was nitpicking and, in hindsight, not necessarily worth questioning, but I had to know. When Patroclus is scaling the walls of Troy, Apollo is depicted as being cold and aloof, which I totally understand as a god, but he was mentioned as having dark hair. In every painting I’ve see and every mention of him, he is almost always a blond. My thinking is; He’s the god of light and all, so why dark hair? Not surprisingly the answer was that Apollo has been vastly westernized and, therefore, given the Nordic features that we so commonly see. “I wanted to get away from that kind of ideology” is essentially what she said. She also mentioned that Achilles is mentioned as “fair haired”, but that the Greeks used colours differently. This can mean Achilles was blond, light brown, or even red (which might give insight as to his name ‘Pyrrha’ on Scyros). The ancient Greeks called blood purple, so interpretation is pretty open!
When I asked to take a picture she said “Of course! You’re wearing a Patroclus shirt!” and I don’t think any other phrase has made me smile that much. I felt a little weird about it, because no one else was talking so long and no one was really asking for pictures, but it was an amazing experience. To those of you that were stuck in line behind me, I am so sorry I talked for like 10 minutes. Madeline Miller is an awesome, unique individual. She really helped re-spark my love of Greek and Roman mythology (and my love of Patrochilles) and everyone needs to read her beautiful, lyrical books!
I love talking about signings, because no two are the same. Each author has their own way of explaining things and interacting with the audience. Some of them might be disappointing and some of them are fantastic. Meeting Madeline Miller was definitely the highlight of my year!