I think I was introduced to the concept of novels retelling myths or fairy tales by Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, which uses the fairy tale “Donkeyskin” as its mythic substrate. I dove into the genre of retellings wholeheartedly. For example, I own a bunch of the titles in the excellent Snow White, Blood Red series, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.
I first discovered The Myths at the St. John’s College Bookstore. The manager there has an incredible eye for lovely books. The series pays satisfying attention to the sensuality of books, and the titles look lovely together on a shelf. I point this aspect out often, because the first impression a book makes matters to me. I always notice beautiful, artful publishing, and investigate further. Aside from aesthetics, I love the concept. Contemporary authors such as Jeannette Winterson get assigned mythic source material (in her case, the story of Atlas), and come up with retellings. The list of works so far has a great lineup of authors and myths, and they seem to have a lot more lined up (though I’m not sure how the current economic situation will affect this).
One thing I like is the authors have experimented with formats. For example, Victor Pelevin’s Helmet of Horror, based on the story of Theseus, which I own (but haven’t finished), is written as a series of instant messages. I like the association of the Minotaur’s maze with the Internet.
I feel sheepish as I write up posts on these amazing lines of books when I have to admit that I haven’t read the whole list. But that’s the case here again. Still, very drool-worthy, and I would read all of them.
Publishers/Editors: Canongate’s Jamie Byng, working with 40 other publishers.
Number of books in series so far: 10 (bonus points for reading the series along with the source material that inspires each title, which doubles this number, I suppose)
Number of books I’ve read: 0 (But I do own 2. Never enough time to read.)
Feature summary: Attractive hardcovers, excellent overarching vision, interesting mix-and-match of famous authors and myths.