Mythical Greek Inspo for Writers (Made Easy) by Dionysius

Victory of Samothrace ready for liftoff at the top of the Louvre’s entrance. By Lyokoï88 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39152792
Victory of Samothrace ready for liftoff at the top of the Louvre’s entrance. By Lyokoï88 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39152792

Melodrama, romance, intrigue, mystery, mysticism, pragmatism — oh, wait, not the last one… If you’re looking for inspiration for writing or for reading excitement, check out Greek mythology!

Goddesses and gods, mortals, the blending of both — doesn’t that sound like Stan Lee comicbook territory? Surely he sorted through ancient myths to fashion superheroines and superheroes. Star Trek and Star Wars makers must’ve too.

Admittedly the Greek tales of olden times can be challenging. Every poetically written story is jam-packed with enough intrigue to rival a binge-watch of Days of Lives, a still-running daily soap opera that first aired in 1965 and I once upon a time worked as an extra for… but that’s another story.

South Carolina blogger Dionysius has the same monicker as the multi-cultural god/superhero who oversees everything from wine to fertility and ecstasy to madness. Some argue that Dionysus the god is really Jesus. Our guest, Dionysius, created his New Classical blog “to create a new contemporary literature deeply rooted in classic literary traditions… not to repeat old and dead literary traditions, but to rediscover what is living and vibrant in them today.”

Read on for a peek into how Dionysius sees classic literature… 

Bacchus by Charles Lucy (English, 1692 - 1767). Courtesy of Wikipedia. Bacchus by Charles Lucy (English, 1692 – 1767). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A brief summary and analysis of Euripedes’s “The Bacchae” by Dionysius

Summary

Prior to the events of The Bacchae, Dionysus is born from the love affair of Zeus and the mortal Semele. When he is born, his mortal family denies that he is the son of Zeus and refuses to give him worship. Dionysus then leaves Thebes and journeys to the east, where he gathers his cult of female worshippers, the maenads. The Bacchae opens when he returns to Thebes with his maenads to take vengeance on his family. He starts by luring the Theban women, including his aunts, into the forest around Mt. Cithaeron, where they join the maenads. This angers Pentheus, the king and Agave’s (Semele’s sister) son. After Pentheus fails to arrest and subdue Dionysus and the maenads, he is lured into the forest by Dionysus’s offer to look at them. In order to watch the maenads without being noticed, Dionysus tells him that he must dress as a woman. Pentheus complies and imitates the image and mannerisms of the maenads. When he arrives, his body is torn apart by them and by his own mother. Under the spell of Dionysus, she carries his head through Thebes, parading it, thinking that it is the head of a lion she caught during a hunt. When she is made aware of what she has done and whose head she’s been carrying, she falls into grief. The drama ends with Dionysus casting her and the royal family out of Thebes.

Maenads – The Mystery of Woman

Pentheus being torn by maenads. Roman fresco from the northern wall of the triclinium in the Casa dei Vettii (VI 15,1) in Pompeii. Courtesy of Wiki: Marisa Ranieri Panetta (ed.): Pompeji. Geschichte, Kunst und Leben in der versunkenen Stadt. Belser, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-7630-2266-X, p. 366 Pentheus being torn by maenads. Roman fresco from the northern wall of the triclinium in the Casa dei Vettii (VI 15,1) in Pompeii. Courtesy of Wiki: Marisa Ranieri Panetta (ed.): Pompeji. Geschichte, Kunst und Leben in der versunkenen Stadt. Belser, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-7630-2266-X, p. 366

The Bacchae revolves around the mystery of difference. Particularly sexual difference and cultural difference. This is seen clearly by the depiction of Dionysus’s maenads. That they are a cult of women and that Dionysus gathered them in the east is of significance here. In The Bacchae, the feminine, or the idea of Woman, takes on the form of the unknown. Like a woman behind a veil, there is mystery, temptation, and fear associated with the maenads. This is portrayed most clearly by the way Pentheus relates to them. At first, it is with fear, responding to the maenads with force and violence. Then, when it proves that the feminine is impossible to control or subdue, when the captured maenads escape his prison and most definingly when Dionysus(posing as a young mortal priest) himself escapes, Pentheus gives in to temptation at Dionysus’s first request to take him to look at the maenads. He goes as far as to dress as a woman and imitate their dances and appearances.

The temptation that is displayed here is twofold. It is the temptation not only to satiate his desires by seeing the bodies of the women, but also and more fundamentally, to be one of the maenads and experience their enjoyment. While the first temptation fits into a traditional male standpoint of desire, what is significant about the second temptation is that he is not merely taking the maenads as an object of desire, rather his desire is to assume the subjective position of the maenads, of “Woman” and their feminine enjoyment. What is revealed here is that his anger at the maenads was all along based in his own envy of their enjoyment.

Pentheus never understood what the condition for this enjoyment was.

The very condition for the sublime bliss that Pentheus sought after is a primordial unity of being. An overflow of life and nature. It is because the maenads abandon their individual identities and place in the Theban social order, that they can participate in this primordial unity. Their individuality is suspended for the tribal enjoyment of dance, ritual, hunt, and fertility. They participate seamlessly with nature and become a part of the overflowing development of life. Beyond the enjoyment that Pentheus sought, the “[…] Sweet streams of honey dripping,” this condition, is also at the same time the condition for an inhuman terror. This is displayed most clearly when he is torn apart by his own mother and the other maenads.

Unseen Essence

Four Caryatids at Erechtheum Acropolis, Athens: Wikimedia Commons Four Caryatids at Erechtheum Acropolis, Athens: Wikimedia Commons

What must be remembered is that what appears as purely negative in tragedy also has a positive dimension. This is the pinnacle of Greek tragic wisdom. Why does Woman present itself as the apocalypse of man in this tragedy? It is because of an original betrayal of the feminine reality committed by the mortal family of Dionysus. By his entire family when they initially rejected him, and by Pentheus when he returned. This is what causes the breakdown of the Theban social order and the revenge of Woman.

In the same way that Woman is a constitutive element of the reality of sex, including the reality of man. The Dionysian rituals that the maenads take part in, that return to a primordial being and oneness, are constitutive of the Theban social order. It is even the root of the Theban social order. The unconscious reality of Thebes exists as the basis for its conscious and institutional realities.

It is precisely because the rituals of Dionysus exist outside of Thebes, in the rituals of the maenads on Mt. Cithaeron, that it is the base of Theban society. It is precisely because the maenads are all women whose rituals are constitutive of the male Theban social order. And it is precisely because the maenads come from the east that they constitute the western social order of Thebes. Dionysus and his cult are the external essences of Theban society. Essence, unlike appearance, is always unseen.

Dionysus of the Night

Bacchus and Ariadne by Carlo Maratta: Wikimedia Commons Bacchus and Ariadne by Carlo Maratta: Wikimedia Commons

The place that Dionysus dwells in is the contradiction between appearance and essence.

Dionysus embodies this contradiction. He is returning from the east, and yet he was born in the west. He leads a cult of women, and yet he is a man. He is divine, and yet his mother is mortal. This contradiction is like the black of night, where one thousand stars shine. The failure of his mortal family to respect it, and to respect their own essence, is what leads to the breakdown of Thebes.

Visit Dionysius at his New Classical blog, his Twitter page, and his Facebook page.

I’ve always wanted to put on a cape, stretch out my arms, take a running jump, and whoosh! — feel the wind in my face, inhale the fragrance of treetops as I soar high into the clouds. Picture me Super-da-AL or Winged Victory of Samothrace ready for liftoff at the top of the Louver’s entrance.

What superpower would you want?

Holidays Capote-Style by da-AL

Gentle and cruel, personal and universal — writer / novelist / artist / actor / personality Truman Capote captured the holiday season to a “T”-ruman in his “A Christmas Memory.”

A lifelong bestie of another of my beloved authors, Harper Lee of “To Kill a Mockingbird” renown, Truman grew up queer during times when that wasn’t allowed. Hell, it’s still not allowed, not really despite the two-steps-forward/one-step-back strides that humanity has been making lately.

Truman Capote at 23, thanks to Wikipedia.
Truman Capote at 23, thanks to Wikipedia.

I happened upon Truman’s “A Christmas Memory” by chance. It’s part of his book, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s: a Short Novel and Three Short Stories,” the whole volume of which is mind-blowing. His print version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is nothing less than enchanting for how it captures the heartbreaking nuances of love and friendship, particularly between a gay man and a straight woman. (Incidentally, another book I adore along those same lines is “The Object of My Affection,” by Stephen McCauley. That novel as well is much more profound in print than in the film.)

Poster for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" from Wikipedia.
Poster for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” from Wikipedia.

Please don’t judge “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by its movie version. It’s stunning because of Audrey Hepburn, her iconic dress by Hubert de Givenchy, and so forth — but its racism toward Asians is deplorable. Moreover, it’s nowhere near as deep as the fabulous book. Unfortunately, Truman seems to have actively prostituted his masterpiece novella to Hollywood. Why? Was it due to his tragic and increasingly alcoholic life?

Truman Capote, four years before his too early death. Thank you Wikipedia
Truman Capote, four years before he passed away. Thank you Wikipedia.

The story in its p.r.i.n.t.e.d. form reminds me of how this whole pandemic situation has upended our holiday season, yet in some ways “righted” them. This year I’m extra thrilled that my dear ones are in good health. I’m happier for the smaller gestures. Living “sheltered-in-place,” I’m reminded that even though we can feel alone, we never really are.

Writer/novelist/artist/actor/personality Truman Capote.
Writer/novelist/artist/actor/personality Truman Capote.

No matter how poorly we feel and badly we are treated, one kindred face can make all the difference. Here in this vintage video, Truman doesn’t tell us this — his story enables us to feel it…

How are your holidays unique this year?

Guest Blog Post: Happy International Women’s Day Pt. 1 of 2 by Denzil

Early poster for International Women’s Day. (Thanks to Wikipedia.)

International Women’s Day, initially proposed by German revolutionary Clara Zetkin, was initially honored on the streets of New York, March 8, 1909. It was decidedly socialist until feminists embraced it in 1968, and the United Nations joined the festivities in 1975.

This Wiki diagram shows where… hey, wait a minute — why, why, why is the United States blank? How do you celebrate International Women’s Day?…

Red: official holiday. Orange: holiday for women. Yellow: non-official holiday (gifts for women). (Author: Artemka at Wikipedia.)

Marie-Louise Habets went from nurse, nun, and war to fame. Here’s her story, courtesy of Belgian-British blogger Denzil Walton. He’s guested at Happiness Between Tails here and here. (He’s also a professional technical copywriter.) Among his posts about Belgium’s many wonders, he introduces us to the country’s incredible women!…

Textile Protest, Alt-Reality Animation, Nature Dreams: MOLAA by da-AL

The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, is a great way to spend a rainy day with visiting family!

What a delight to visit MOLAA with Angela!

On display were arpilleras — textiles sewn by the women of MEMCh (Movement for the Emancipation of the Chilean Woman) to protest the 17-year-long fascist regime of Agosto Pinochet. The dictator seized control of Chile with the backing of United States President Nixon in 1973 and further support of later U.S. President Bush’s family. (More about the exhibition here)…

Bullets rain down on seekers of justice in Chile…
Women had to be creative to get word out about the killings…
“Children search trash cans for bread.” “Not everyone has running water.”
Books are burned…
All are forced to worship the dictator…

Dreams, politics, and beauty merge in the art of Argentine artist Matias Duville

Transcendent and political art by Argentine artist Matias Duville…

Award-winning animation was also on display — the alternative worlds created by Quique Rivera, a Puerto Rican animation artist, sculptor, photographer, and film director. His sculptures such as these…

Quique Rivera sees things differently…
His underwater world is like no other…

…created videos such as these! Also, more about the Museum of Latin American Art is here and here and here.

Where’s your favorite place to take visitors?…

Happy Birthday, Anne Tyler! with a Guest Blog Post by Angela Bell

Anne Tyler deserves all the chocolate cupcakes she could ever want for her birthday!
Anne Tyler deserves all the chocolate cupcakes she could ever want for her birthday! Photo: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” Anne Tyler, novelist.

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors! Who is yours?

For those of you unfamiliar with Tyler’s novels, she won a Pulitzer Prize and has been nominated repeatedly for more. She’s remarkable for writing about life’s nuances that we might otherwise miss. Too often, we’re so busy “doing” that we miss “living.” We can miss ourselves and each other.

Enter Tyler to remind us that each day is happy and sad, selfish and loving, smart and goofy, and everything in between. Families might offer connection. When they make us feel unbearably isolated and misunderstood, we can find solace in friendships and in families of our own making. Now in her late 70s, Tyler writes as prolifically as ever. Several of her stories have been made into Hollywood films and TV movies. Her books and her deeds illustrate how each of us is as vibrant as we choose.

Born in Minnesota and raised by Quaker parents, she was socially and culturally thoughtful from the start. I’m a soon-to-be self-published novelist. Like me, she married a Persian man. They were together until his death and had two daughters, now both accomplished artists.

Tyler has always been media-shy. That must be how she gets so much writing done! Where she lives in Baltimore, Maryland, businesses offer tips on where to see the homes of each of her characters. For more about her, there’s this and this. Fortunately, we also have Wikipedia’s Anne Tyler page to celebrate her — along with writer/blogger Angela Bell’s guest blog post…

Hashtag Retired

I try to be open to new writers and each year read a few debuts or authors I’m unfamiliar with, sometimes on other’s recommendations, sometimes at a writer’s or publisher’s request. Still, for me, there is a clear gold standard reserved for those writers who, over decades of wonderful books, always satisfy me, challenge or teach me, make me laugh, or bring me to tears.

I began reading Anne Tyler in the late 1980s, at the urging of my late dear friend Gerry. Incidentally, my then teen-aged daughter fell for her then, too. Anne Tyler persists today as one of our country’s great novelists. My list of favorites includes but isn’t limited to The Accidental Tourist, Breathing Lessons, Saint Maybe, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Digging to America, Ladder of Years, The Beginner’s Goodbye, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My most recent…

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Guest Blog Post: 10 Characters You Can Relate To by ChrissiReads

A promotional photo of Boris Karloff, as Frankenstein’s monster, using Jack Pierce’s makeup design, by Universal Studios, NBCUniversal – Dr. Macro, Public Domain

Blogger about all things books, ChrissiReads even (be still my heart!) loves banned books! Given how the novels I’m writing are written in letter form (epistolary), I’m partial to similarly presented ones. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley, is deep meditation on society, whereas Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding is a drastically fluffier contemplation. In the case of both protagonists, I can definitely relate.

Does a character from a novel remind you of yourself? Here ChrissiReads reveals her picks…

Christmas and More ala Truman Capote by da-AL

Truman Capote was a genius writer and spoken word performer. He’s best known for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Yes, the movie version that starred the lovely Audrey Hepburn but that horribly mangled Capote’s marvelous novella.

Here Capote reads aloud his heartbreakingly sweet and profound autobiographical “A Christmas Memory”…

Here, along with his “Among the Paths to Eden,” is him reading the real version of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”…

Have you read any of Truman Capote’s stories?

Happy Un-Holidays by da-AL

Still from John Water's film, "Female Trouble"

Not feeling holiday cheerful? Don’t despair — holidays are merely dates on the calendar. Before you know it, they’ll be over and done with.

Here’s confirmation that Xmas isn’t always merry — but life can still be funny or at least interesting. The Davenport family holidays, as realized by John Waters, the king cult film-making, with the help of Devine who departed from us far too soon…

Are you feeling holiday-ish?

Part 2: Tehran Visits The Louvre by da-AL

Abbas Kiarostami, (Iran 1940-2016)
Look twice at the folks in the foreground.

Art bridges cultures and makes us see differently (that’s why the first of my novels-in-progress is titled, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”)  — look again at these art photos by Abbas Kiarostami, a noted Iranian film producer/director/screenwriter, poet, and photographer.

In his photos, Kiarostami examines the relationship between art and visitors. He shot them at the Louvre, between 1996 and 2012.

My husband happened to visit Iran’s National Museum and generously returned with these photos. Hover over them for descriptions and click on them to see full-sized. Look closely — the people in the front are observers like us…

How do you view art?…

See Part 1: The Louvre visits Tehran by da-AL

Guest Blog Post: Reconnecting via Photography by Richard Keys

Puffin (Bempton)
Photo courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Fellow blogger Richard’s photos are stunning! Here he describes his process and how photography can heal…

Dandelion: Photos courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Introduction
Hey, I’m Richard, and my blog is photosociology.wordpress.com. To be honest, I’m surprised that my blog is followed by others, I’m just a guy with mental health problems, which photography helps me to cope with. Initially, it got me going outside when I was too scared to do so. Basically, I’m a middle-aged guy, trying to grow up and find a way to live in this confusing world.

Close up of a fly courtesy by Richard Keys of Photosociology.wordpress.com

Reconnecting
Although I am a student photographer and use photography to explore social issues, such as inequality, mental health, and diversity (and more), I also thoroughly enjoy photography. Macro photography and photographing birds are my joy and my peace, especially when I am having a day of intense anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia.

When photographing birds, flowers, bees, and bugs, I have to slow down. I mean really slow down. I’m not here to take a quick photo and walk on. I want to make a great photo and that means searching. Seeking out the best angle, ensuring that the background doesn’t distract from the subject, checking the focus, and making sure the exposure is correct. When it comes to bugs, bees, and butterflies, I have to slow down even further, firstly to spot them and then to ensure great focus by getting close without scaring them off.

Having a mental illness brings challenges with living, over-thinking, analyzing, being busy because I’m scared of my feelings, and being suspicious and paranoid about people. At first, I was scared of slowing down because I thought these difficulties would overwhelm me, but the opposite is true.

Slowing down is vital for my mental health, it refreshes me, recharges me, helps me to stop running from my emotions and thoughts, and allows whatever is there to be allowed to be, as it is. The process of connecting with nature means that I reconnect with myself, and all is surprisingly well.

Richard Keys