28 March 2008
Is mythology making a comeback? First there was the outstanding The Night Tourist, which revisited Oprheus and Eurydice. Recent releases have given us Pandora Gets Jealous by Carolyn Hennessey (it looks to be the start of a series of "Mythic Mis-Adventures") and Medusa Jones by Ross Collins. Not to mention the already popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. And here is Dusssie, the story of Dussie (short for Medusa) Gorgon who, at the onset of puberty, discovers that she is only half-human. The other half of her is gorgon. Now with a head full of snakes (the "bad hair day" jokes are plentiful) Dussie tries to come to grips with the changes and choices ahead of her. Turning her would-be beau, named "Troy" no less, into stone doesn't help matters much.
Author Nancy Springer has revisited classic tales before, with her Tales of Rowan Hood series (Robin Hood) and the Enola Holmes Mysteries (Sherlock Holmes.) So she is in a strong position to give ancient mythology a modern spin. Evidently the immortals are with us still (of course--they are immortal) and the majority of them live in New York City, where anyone can blend in. (Considering that The Night Tourist is also set in NYC, perhaps it is conceivable to establish a time-line between the two books?) That being said, this was not a strong story, entertaining though it was at times. Dussie's voice is clear and well-defined--she is every thirteen year old girl, despite the fact that she can telepathically communicate with the 27 snakes writhing on her head. But there are too many pieces that are laid before the reader and then hastily tied up: the truth about Dussie's father; Troy's experience while he is in his state of stone; Dussie's anger at her mother; Dussie's eventual solution to the head full of snakes (which is much more proactive than her mother's--forever wearing a turban.) The book started so well, and then it kind of fizzled. And the over-riding message that beauty is only skin deep is alternately laid on thick and then lost and then tossed in front of the reader again as Dussie wavers between petulance and wisdom.
While not quite a fractured fairy-tale, I'm not sure how to categorize Dusssie. Someone needs to come up with a similar term for this new breed of revisited myths. "Modified mythology"?