From the blurb: “An Asian Minor is unlike any book you are likely to read this year. The story of a thirteen year old boy who discovers he is “the most beautiful mortal ever born,” it examines that dubious humour in a retelling of the classical Greek myth that has attracted artists for centuries. A very contemporary, intelligent, clear sighted boy, through whose eyes adult politics and sexual attitudes are skewered, Picano’s Ganymede will remind reader of Huck Finn and the heroine of Rubyfruit Jungle.”
Review by Erastes
If you are looking for a traditional Greek tale with formal classic language then this is certainly not for you. Picano visualises a young man, given immortality at fourteen, who has aged mentally with the earth; he sees and knows the world – the modern world – and he speaks like a modern (albiet an American) boy. He decides to speak up and tell his true story because he sees that “a certain group of overconcerned busybodies are intent on making me a symbolic victim of an old pervert’s lust; and contrarily, by others saying that the perversion is fine.” He wants to set the record straight, to point out that his human rights had NOT been violated and he’s not the unwilling victim, raped and abducted without his permission.
He also says in the prologue, that he wants to give guys of today some hints
“to get themselves a sugar daddy who really counts, rather than settling for whomever comes along.”
Yes – unhinge your classical brain, we ain’t in the land of Laurence Olivier as Zeus!
Now you’d think I’d be complaining bitterly but I’m really not. I thoroughly enjoyed it once I saw the tack that Picano was taking. Ganymede is a cheeky little bastard, but wouldn’t you be if you were fated to be the most beautiful youth that ever lived? Picano takes the story mentioned in The Iliad that Ganymede was the son of Troas, King of Troy and whilst some of the ends of the story are changed a little, Ganymede Explains It All with typical youthful brio. When Zeus propositions him, there’s one of my favourite lines in the book and typical of the boy:
“If you want me, you’re going to have to do a lot better than they did. I’m not going to be known as the idiot who threw over Apollo and Hermes and Ares for an instant baking.”
The fact that his dad is dying of embarrassment as his son talks back to Zeus is a perfect touch.
Ganymede learns very early on that being so beautiful is both a blessing and a curse. His father shows him off as one of the wonders of Troy and soon on the boy is exiled from his home because Troas doesn’t want any gods turning up to court his son and making a nuisance of themselves. Ganymede’s adventures begin after this, rejecting Hermes, Ares and Apollo (after giving them a little taste of what they were going to miss) because he knows he’s worth more than any old randy minor god. And who can blame him. However it’s not until he’s humbled that he gets the chance to fulfill his destiny. The fact that it was Ganymede that brought about the Trojan war and subsequent destruction I thought was nicely done. It was his face that launched those ships, after all!!
The book is illustrated with lovely black and white drawings by David Martin which are very lickable and I wish I could show you one.
This book could easily have descended into a laughable, sporkable farce-but it doesn’t. It manages to be a fun, funny read thanks to the characterisation of the narrator and if you can get hold of a copy, reasonably priced, I think you’ll enjoy it.