The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

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jan
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The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by jan »

I have found the book written by Annabel Lyon called The Golden Mean. Her novel about Aristotle and Alexander the Great was published in 2009. I just learned that it was available so that I checked it out at the local library. I am near the end of it. She writes in first person as Aristotle which some critics seem to like. I tried to locate it here but did not find any reference to it. Has anyone read it?
jan
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by jan »

I just finished reading this novel about Aristotle and Alexander in his youthful years. This author received many accolades and good reviews for this book including the Rogers' Trust Fictional Prize. On the jacket are naturally praises from authors who endorse the book.

Without spoiling this story for everyone, I will say that i was surprised at her style, her characterizations, and her intent. She seems to be at odds with herself in either having contempt for her subjects or in having admiration for them. This book will not encourage anyone to investigate into the lives of any of the characters. The narrator of the story (Aristotle) is so unconvincing in his self understanding that nobody would care to know anything more about him after he has told us so much about his many failings, whether it is the green snot pouring out of his nose, or the manner in which he wants to examine his wife's clitoris, or how he wants to train the feeble minded Arrhideus to ride a horse. Frankly, some of his graphic vivid imagery I found to be unnecessary. I am not truly fond of reading about how a child when constipated can die from it, but as Alexander puts it, " he had too much shit in his system which killed him." This author seems to think that crude, coarse, and ugly is needed to understand these killers of Macedon.

More disturbing than all the graphic language which is obviously pandering to a group who like the depths of hell described as such, she then tidies it up in her final chapters so that it all sounds as if it were an exercise in how to make your novel end happily ever after. Everyone has to be reconciled, balanced, explained, and loved...naturally amongst all the upheaval of trying to understand himself fully, Aristotle finally realizes after all that he has loved...how nice...Alexander is even cleaned up a bit so that he sounds almost reasonable...how can all this be? After all the effort to present him as a totally deranged and disturbed young man...

A very bad characterization, but one that she seems to think will satisfy those who truly have contempt and hatred for Alexander...it is a very strange appraisal indeed!
hiphys
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by hiphys »

I totally agree with you. I read this novel a year ago or more, but it seemed to me so ugly, and - even worse - useless to understand Aristoteles, let alone to love Alexander, or to recognize the characters of his friends, that I have completely wiped out this book from my memory, Usually I don't like to review novels that I didn't enjoy, but now you have unearth it with all my disappointment. I don't understand all the same the favourable review she received. There are many good books on the same subject that are relatively unknown and without any praise.
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delos13
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by delos13 »

I completely agree with Jan's and hiphys' opinions. I tried to read this book a few years ago but couldn't make it past the middle. I think the author managed to surpass Cameron's books in her negative portrayal of Alexander. I was as much surprised by all the positive reviews of the book and the fact that it was advertised on far grander level than many more worthy books. But the author published second book on the subject so obviously it did well on the market. Go figure.....
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Paralus
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by Paralus »

That makes a compelling case: I'll have to read it as it sounds most interesting.
Paralus
Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Nicator
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by Nicator »

Hello Jan,

Thanks for such an enlightening review. In general, I've avoided venturing into the murky waters of historical fiction because it has a way of perverting the facts in my mind. That being said, my viewpoint on the genre is that good historical fiction is comprised of facts interlaced into a fictionalized account. To your knowledge, did this book at least pass this test?
Later Nicator

Thus, rain sodden and soaked, under darkness cloaked,
Alexander began, his grand plan, invoked...

The Epic of Alexander
ruthaki
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by ruthaki »

I'm sure I might have mentioned this book ages ago when it first came out. I have met the author in person and she is a very nice woman but when I read the book I was hugely disappointed. For one thing its length (it seemed abrupt), the way she skirted around important parts (such as the Battle of Chaeronea) and although there were a few things about Alexander I may have agreed with in general I found it very shallow and disappointing. Turned out she had never stepped foot in Greece. She was basically a philosophy student at UBC (now she teaches in their writing classes). When I asked her if the brevity of the book was due to editor's cuts, she said 'no, they kept asking me to write more'. But what more could she write when she didn't really know the subject that well? Since all those acolades (she was at that time the darling of the local lit set) she has written another, about Aristotle's daughter, called Sweet Girl. I enjoyed it to a point then I got furious because of the way she had the woman behaving for one thing, and then (like in the Golden Mean) a lot of what I thought was made-up nonsense. (OK< i'm a historical FICTION writer too but I believe on subjects like this you have to be true to as much fact as you can even in small details). After writing The Golden Mean she made a quick trip to Greece with a university group. I suggested she go to certain places around Athens etc where she might find things related to Aristotle just to get an idea of things. (Since then they have actually excavated the lyceum but at the time I just knew it was toward the back of the National Gardens but I have no idea if she went looking). It seems she did go over to Euboeioa where she observed the tidal bore that Aristotle was examining. Anyway, it was another disappointing effort but she still has a huge fan base. She's best known for short stories. And, as I said, she is a very nice person and I've talked to her on several occasion around the literary event scene in Vancouver. Oh yes, another statement she made in a magazine article after she wrote The Golden Mean, was that "ancient Greece doesn't exist" or 'ancient Greece is dead" something like that which infuriated me because she had never set foot in Greece or visited any of the ancient sites. I wrote a rebuttal to that statement.
Nicator
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by Nicator »

ruthaki wrote:It seems she did go over to Euboeioa where she observed the tidal bore that Aristotle was examining.


Of the few things I did in Greece during my short two week trip there back in '97, I stayed in a hotel for over a week which overlooked that bridge and discussed it with the locals that we were there to see. The Ambassador of History was the brother of the Groom for the wedding that my 'then wife' was to stand for as the Matron of Honor. I gave my honest opinion, as an engineering student, that the reason for the tidal phenomenon was because of forces resulting from the earth's magnetic field in conjunction with gravitational pulling at that point causing a sort of resonation. But a more proper description which would be correlate these two magnificent forces is that the earth was 'ringing' at the locale of the 'crazy waters' beneath the bridge where Aristotle was said to toss himself in. Both terms are borne from real physics but 'resonation' describes something a bit different than 'ringing'.

I did have the opportunity to discuss some ancient Greek stuff and digs with him for about a half hour outside his bedroom on his terrace while we ate some salty Greek meats on a skewer stick (which he really enjoyed, evidently) and drank some wine. Unfortunately, he was losing his mind and rarely was able to stay focused for long. Of the few interesting things of note, not to Pothos, was that he felt the French were far more favorable to the Greeks in their excavations than the evil British (his words). He felt that the British had robbed Greece and plundered it of most of its great cultural heritage. Whereas, the French were more apt to leave the finds to the Greeks or return them after they finished researching them. At the time, I'd just read Green's 'The Parthenon' and also wrote a few poems about some ancient greeks, like Democritus of Abdera (circa 430 BCE). And another poem about Hypatia, the last great philosopher, polymath, and curator of the Great Alexandrian Library before it was finally and fatefully burned by a mob of fanatical Christians of the early Christian era. Hypatia met a brutal end, as they dragged her from her chariot, stoned her to death, then cleaved the meat from her bones, tossed her bones down a well, and obliterated her works. I believe it was like 20 years later that the library met its final and tragic end. That library, of course, contained the knowledge of the world up to that point and had suffered like 5 previous attempts at obliteration. The 6th attempt was 100% successful. The dubious Christian that led or incited the mob was named Cyril. The early Christian church later made him a saint (go figure). The Poem, entitled...'For Hypatia', was one of my prettier poems and very well received but still suffers from a great deal of amateurism. I can only hope my Epic of Alexander' is as well received. But as my knowledge of him, and my own maturation process, both as a writer and my political ethos, continues to unfold, I find rewrites inevitable.
Later Nicator

Thus, rain sodden and soaked, under darkness cloaked,
Alexander began, his grand plan, invoked...

The Epic of Alexander
jan
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Re: The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon

Post by jan »

Hello Nicator, I wrote that in October, and it is now January in which I have returned to find your post. Thank you for your question. A quick answer to your question is No, she did not pass the test. I read further into the posts to learn that you are writing your own novel...and as I am doing the same thing I am finding that rewrites is for certain. I consider my first draft just the conception now...the growth and changes in this novel are so slow but nonetheless happening that it will take me some time to finally get to the point to where I can feel this baby move... 8)
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