I should have read The Iliad in college. It was assigned for a first year seminar for which I did less than half the reading. I’ve long been embarrassed by this fact, yet not at all motivated to make up the deficit.
When I came to Song of Achilles, I had no idea who the narrator was, or his relationship to Achilles. I wonder if that’s a not insignificant portion of how beautiful I found this book, that I came to it unspoiled. Just as Hamilton has imprinted on my daughter an image of the American Revolution, Song of Achilles has shaped my grasp of The Iliad. There are inevitable inaccuracies, but this… this story is too much.
Patroclus, the best of the Myrmidons, breathes life and color into the proud hero Achilles. He is not blind to his lover’s faults–Achilles is unyielding. In the way of all lovers, Patroclus brushes this aside easily, and finds ways to manage him. If there’s a fault, it’s that it’s harder to see Achilles’s reciprocal love, so much does Patroclus’s adoration overwhelm the story.
In our stories these divinities had to work by wheedling and flattery, by favors won from stronger gods. They could not do much themselves. Except live, forever.
The story of their devotion to one another is lovely. Miller’s prose is musical and hopeful. I was so taken with the Miller’s writing that I immediately took up Circe, another read I have been putting off for too long.