High life

Circe has been recast as the girl next door – it’s a sign of the times

14 April 2018

9:00 AM

14 April 2018

9:00 AM

When poor old battered Odysseus landed on Circe’s island having lost all his ships (except his flagship) when he tangled with the Laestrygonians (their king liked to eat Greek flesh and swallowed up most of his crews, yummy) Circe — witch, sorceress and goddess in her own right — turned the few survivors into swine, except for Odysseus, whom she wanted for some old-fashioned hanky-panky. If she were around today she would most probably be the first American female president.

Odysseus serviced her rather well and stayed in her palace for a year. He also used the ‘moly’, the antidote Hermes had given him in the form of a magic herb that turned pigs back into men. When Circe realised that Odysseus was not just a dumb shipwrecked schmuck, she played nice, although kindness was not an every day occurrence in her island of Aeaea. But unlike some hardcore feminists of today, Circe developed a soft spot for Odysseus and told him how to get to the underworld and then on to Ithaca and his family. If the kindness towards Odysseus got out, however, I don’t think she’d crack the glass ceiling and make it to the White House. Hate right now is much more important than love.

Circe came to mind after reading that an American woman novelist has recast the goddess as a very nice girl, a hero in her own right, the type you’d like to bring home to your mother. American women do not particularly like to be considered second best, yet Circe was just a pit stop of one year in the hero’s ten-year peregrinations. No longer. Madeline Miller’s novel (one I do not plan to read incidentally) places Circe as a sort of avenging angel. In an interview Ms Miller said the following: ‘Circe as a character is the embodiment of male anxiety about female power.’ Now she tells us. Why that arch phony Homer, how dare he lead us astray all these 3,000 years. It was all about female power all along and how we men are scared shitless of them.

La Miller has perfect timing. She reads the mood of the culture and writes accordingly. About seven years ago, when being gay became de rigueur among the bien pensants, she wrote her first anti-classic about the romance between Achilles and Patroclus. Dress designers, hairdressers, Hollywood types, closeted sailors, TV writers, book reviewers, Condé Nast journalists and others of that ilk all went bananas. Why make war when you can stay in your tent and bugger each other? Back home where it all began, we have never accepted the Achilles-Patroclus friendship as anything but that. But the drop the soap in the shower crowd says it ain’t necessarily so. Too much time in the tent and under the sheets makes Achilles and Patroclus naughty boys. La Miller knew how to catch the attention of the tres bien pensants. I wonder what she will write next? We now need transgender types, and Troy besieged by Greeks can provide opportunities galore.

What got to Ms Miller was that Homer, well known as a male chauvinist pig among us Greek chauvinist pigs, had Circe kneeling and cowering before Odysseus and then gave him some nooky as a conciliatory gesture. I agree. Only a backward Greek could think like that. Ms Miller went to Brown, so if you’re planning to send your brat to an American university, don’t forget Brown. The brat might write another classic, how Jesus Christ was a woman, after all. It’s bound to be a bestseller in the Islamic world.

There are ill-informed people who insist one should not paraphrase the classics. Balderdash! Get to it, girls. Men are bad, bad, bad, women are good, good, good, and there’s money to be made. Extortion, too, can be profitable. I don’t know about London, but here in New York men are running scared. Lawyers and private eyes are employed against an upswing of false accusations and blackmail. Rich men in particular are the targets. The latter are being advised not to apologise because an apology now is an admission of guilt. The #MeToo movement has given baseless claims more teeth, according to a gumshoe by the name of Herman Weisberg. ‘If you’re accused by somebody by email, do not apologise,’ advises Sam Spade. ‘It’s an admission of guilt.’

My, my. What’s a poor little Greek boy to do? Actually I know exactly what to do. I’m going to have a sex change. Safety first, as they say in school. It simply doesn’t pay to be a male any longer. At least over in these parts. Take for example my sexual harassment suit against the ladies of The Spectator. My lawyers, Epstein, Epstein and Goldfarb had assured me it was a slam dunk. A judge thought otherwise and threw it out. Now my lawyers are suing me for nonpayment although they had taken my case on a contingency basis. I wish I had been born a girl.

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