The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is terrific I ll start with that and recommend that you go out and buy it This is a novel about Aristotle before he became Aristotle He isn t a young man when the book begins He is 37 years old and is inspecting his wife s vulva and vagina out of intellectual curiosity His curiosity is great and he covets knowledge of all things The story follows his experiences for the next 7 years or so, while he is the tutor of Alexander the Great before he became the Great, still just the kid of King Philip of Macedon The capital city, Pella, is a rough and tumble backwater Aristotle longs for Athens, where he will, beginning in middle age, found an academy and write the works that will influence science and thought for the next 1500 years orThe story is told in the first person and it s very much an interior journey There is no overarching narrative, no through line of plot, but it held my interest throughout because it s so very well done The voice of Aristotle, his thoughts, his feelings, his perspective and reminiscences are compelling I know that this is one of the buzz words of blurbs along with tour de force , but in this case the word is the right one The historical period is brought vividly to life, not in external details, but through this perspective Aristotle is a nerd in a world of jocks, an intellectual among uncultured warriors whose king wants to put some shine on his court Aristotle is both respected and mocked, seen as effeminate, and yet oddly valued A king s friend, he is aware of his precarious position He is a man of great mental powers and at the same time, a man of his period, shocked when his wife experiences sexual pleasure, not especially kind to women or slaves, butconsiderate than some Of necessity, since ancient Greece restricted women s movements, especially upper class women, the story is mostly about men, but Lyon conveys the poignancy of this restriction effectively One moment stands out for me especially, when Alexander s mother comes to visit him at school, and pays dearly for it because she is not supposed to leave her quarters I also enjoyed the character and voice of the slave midwife Athea As an aside, I liked her so much I was thinking that if I was writing the book she would be my main character and then laughed at myself, because of course I did that in The River Midnight, albeit set in a later historical period This must have been a hard book to bring to a conclusion because there isn t a narrative arc There is no resolution, just another stage in the journey I say this because my only quibble with this book, and it s a small one, is at the end The last few pages are, like the rest, terrific But just before that there is a conversation between Aristotle and Alexander that sums up their relationship, and I just couldn t picture it as real But then it s over, the author returns to Aristotle s voice, which has been so yes I ll say it again compelling throughout Aristotle leaves for Athens He is about to become Aristotle Interior, first person stories are not my favourite form It has to be well executed indeed to hold my interest, to impress and stay with me The Golden Mean did. Uma m fic o hist rica apesar de Arist teles, o rei Filipe da Maced nia , Alexandre mais tarde, O Grande e a Academia de Plat oAo longo da leitura deparei me com palavras estranhas a este contexto da Antiguidade sacaninha, trombudo, embei ado, entre outras, e com outras singularidades como Flores para as mulheres Mando as amanh de manh debaixo dos len is de peles e panos talvez O ranger de um belichePr xeno a descer para se sentar com ela Os meus sentimentos pelo teu pai O rapaz Arist teles farta se de queimar as pestanas Sinto me meio mole. A escrita seca, sem entusiasmo e raramente surpreende, ou melhor, surpreendeu me pelo uso frequente de linguagem grosseira. A autora n o se det m nos ambientes e por isso fiquei com a impress o que as personagens se moviam num cen rio Um desastre. A Startlingly Original First Novel By This Generation S Answer To Alice Munro The Vancouver Sun A Bold Reimagining Of One Of History S Most Intriguing Relationships Between Legendary Philosopher Aristotle And His Most Famous Pupil, The Young Alexander The Great BC Aristotle Is Reluctant To Set Aside His Own Ambitions In Order To Tutor Alexander, The Rebellious Son Of His Boyhood Friend Philip Of Macedon But The Philosopher Soon Comes To Realize That Teaching This Charming, Surprising, Sometimes Horrifying Teenager Heir To The Macedonian Throne, Forced Onto The Battlefield Before His Time Is A Necessity Amid The Ever Sinister Intrigues Of Philip S CourtTold In The Brilliantly Rendered Voice Of Aristotle Keenly Intelligent, Often Darkly Funny The Golden Mean Brings Ancient Greece To Vivid Life Via The Story Of This Remarkable Friendship Between Two Towering Figures, Innovator And Conqueror, Whose Views Of The World Still Resonate Today Rating 3.75 of fiveThe Publisher Says On the orders of his boyhood friend, now King Philip of Macedon, Aristotle postpones his dreams of succeeding Plato as leader of the Academy in Athens and reluctantly arrives in the Macedonian capital of Pella to tutor the king s adolescent sons An early illness has left one son with the intellect of a child the other is destined for greatness but struggles between a keen mind that craves instruction and the pressures of a society that demands his prowess as a soldier Initially Aristotle hopes for a short stay in what he considers the brutal backwater of his childhood But, as a man of relentless curiosity and reason, Aristotle warms to the challenge of instructing his young charges, particularly Alexander, in whom he recognizes a kindred spirit, an engaged, questioning mind coupled with a unique sense of position and destiny Aristotle struggles to match his ideas against the warrior culture that is Alexander s birthright He feels that teaching this startling, charming, sometimes horrifying boy is a desperate necessity And that what the boy thrown before his time onto his father s battlefields needs most is to learn the golden mean, that elusive balance between extremes that Aristotle hopes will mitigate the boy s will to conquer.Aristotle struggles to inspire balance in Alexander, and he finds he must also play a cat and mouse game of power and influence with Philip in order to manage his own ambitions As Alexander s position as Philip s heir strengthens and his victories on the battlefield mount, Aristotle s attempts to instruct him are honored, but increasingly unheeded And despite several troubling incidents on the field of battle, Alexander remains steadfast in his desire to further the reach of his empire to all known and unknown corners of the world, rendering the intellectual pursuits Aristotle offers increasingly irrelevant.Exploring this fabled time and place, Annabel Lyon tells her story in the earthy, frank, and perceptive voice of Aristotle himself With sensual and muscular prose, she explores how Aristotle s genius touched the boy who would conquer the known world And she reveals how we still live with the ghosts of both men.My Review I think this is up there in ambition of storytelling with The Song of Achilles, the five star imaginative tour de force by Madeline Miller Aristotle as narrator of his time spent in Pella A good idea Tutoring Alexander means getting to the heart of the legend that surrounds Alexander and vivifying him, dusting off the fustian and falderol accreted to his tale.Here s Alexander speaking to Aristotle You who understand what a human mind can be, how can you bear it I don t have the hundredth part of your mind and there are days when I think I ll go mad I can feel it Or hear it It slike hearing something creeping along the walls, just behind my head, getting closer and closer A big insect, maybe a scorpion A dry skittering, that s what madness sounds like to me.Nice Not a teenaged person speaking, and no I m not retroactively applying 21st century standards to Alexander, I m fully aware that he was a powerful king s heir and a man before he was 17 But that s not my inner ear s problem with the passage It sounds like speechifying It s not faux archaic, it s not arch or overwrought It s justspeechy Like a modern presidential speech to the jus folks at a Town Hall Aristotle, a man of immense intellect and unbounded curiosity, attempts to instill those qualities in Alexander s still forming mind You must look for the mean between extremes, the point of balance The point will differ from man to man There is not a universal standard of virtue to cover all situations at all times Context must be taken into account, specificity, what is best at a particular place and time.Aristotle uses some pretty vulgar in all senses of the word subjects to pique the youth s questing intelligence s appetite for information If Alexander was alive now, he d be a Google employee assigned to counter hacking My father explained to me once that human male sperm was a potent distillation of all the fluids in the body, and that when those fluids became warm and agitated they produced foam, just as in cooking or sea water The fluid or foam passes from the brain into the spine, and from there through the veins along the kidneys, then via the testicles into the penis In the womb, the secretion of the man and the secretion of the woman are mixed together, though the man experiences the pleasure in the process and the woman does not Even so, it is healthy for a woman to have regular intercourse, to keep the womb moist, and to warm the blood.In the end, the historical Alexander and the historical Aristotle are brighter figures for Lyon s spit polish of their statues It s a good book, and I won t read it again I feel it s delivered its payload of meaning and philosophical pondering to me Alexander sums up the experience of The Golden Mean quite well You and I can appreciate the glory of things We walk to the very edge of things as everyone else knows and understands and experiences them, and then we walk the next step We go places no one has ever been That s who we are That s who you ve taught me to be.I can t begin to tell you how tough it was for me to finish this five star idea and rate it under four stars I can t honestly push it higher, for the reasons I ve given It might seem to others a perfect five, which rating I can t give but can see how a reader with aaccepting nature would.Watch this writer This is a debut novel, following a story collection and a novella collection as well as some YA work There is nothing in this book, either structural or aesthetic, that suggests to me a career of mediocre meh ness Fine, imaginitive writing will come forth from her pen I haven t read the follow on to this book, The Sweet Girl, about Aristotle s daughter Happen that I will, with a deal of hope for excellence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon is the story of the nearly seven years Aristotle spent as the tutor of Alexander, the son and heir of King Philip of Macedon The narrative is told in Aristotle s voice, opening with his arrival in Pella, the capital of Macedon He is accompanied by his wife, Pythias, and his nephew, Callisthenes.Aristotle s initial task is to work with Philip s mentally challenged son, Arrhidaeus Although he treats Arrhidaeus with compassion and helps him improve both his physical and mental agility, it is Arrhidaeus younger brother, Alexander, who consumes Aristotle s interest and becomes the focus of his attention Aristotle is portrayed as highly intelligent and with an unbounded curiosity of the natural world, including human anatomy Even though the novel is told from his point of view, he remains somewhat aloof and impenetrable He is subject to fits of depression and has a tendency to weep he knows not why His conversations occasionally sound stilted and have the flavor of a lecture as if he were nothingthan a mouthpiece for his ideas Alexander emerges as an inquisitive, petulant, arrogant, lonely, willful, ambitious, and brilliant young man, capable of performing atrocities both on and off the battlefield that horrify even his father Aristotle struggles to reign him in, to teach him the self control required to live within the gold mean Their conversations assume the form of verbal sparring challenging each other back and forth as they debate ideas without arriving at mutually satisfactory resolutions Lyon guides us through a period of history replete with examples of male dominance Her prose is muscular, straightforward, and, for the most part, engaging However, her frequent use of obscenities and modern phrasing was jarring and incongruous Such language yanks readers out of historical time and place and thrusts them smack in the middle of contemporary terminology and contemporary cuss words Their presence is gratuitous, detracts from the setting, and diminishes what would otherwise have been aenjoyable read. While Annabel Lyon s much acclaimed novel The Golden Mean, has been received well by critics, I m afraid it fell short for this reader.The novel deals with Aristotle s life during his tutelage of Alexander, who would become The Great Lyon attempts to paint a picture of Aristotle s own struggle to find balance between depression and joy, passion and reason, and in doing so employs a considerable wealth of research into the historical characters.However, research into the historical milieu is lacking In the opening Lyon s describesI spent yesterday on the carts myself so I could write, though now I ride bareback, in the manner of my countrymen, a ball busting proposition for someone who s been sedentary as long as I have Agreed riding bare back can be a painful experience over the long term however, the glaring inconsistency here is the fact Aristotle was writing while riding in a cart In an era of no suspension, and roughly paved or even dirt roads, the jouncing and ball busting would have had his backside black and blue, and any writing would have been rendered illegible Further, Lyon fails to illustrate that if paper papyrus were used, orlikely parchment or vellum, all would have required sanding and burnishing, tasks not easily accomplished on a bouncing, crashing cart Moreover, use of any stylus and ink would have been prohibitive If, however, a wax tablet had been used, which would have beenlikely the case, even then any legible cipher would have been an impossibility.The language of the novel was another point of contention for me Altogether very modern, even to the use of the modern phrase, whapping each other upside the head, the language of the novel didn t ring true, and consequently a sense of time period and placement left me feeling disoriented I wasn t looking for Shakespearean diction here far from it But I was looking for something a little less modern street.Around the middle of the novel that modern touch became completely arresting when Lyons writes a scene wherein he and his wife watch snow falling, and Aristotle explains to his wifeThe gods don t send it, I say It s part of the machinery of the world When the air is cold enough, rain turns to snow It freezes The water atoms attach to each other and harden Now, while Democritus, one of the ancient Greek philosophers credited with the concept of atomic theory, was a contemporary of Aristotle s, the statement Lyon s writes reads just a bit too modern and stretches the boundaries of credibility As to the tone of the language, it is altogether very vulgar, which may be an attempt to reflect a male voice Instead, at least for this reader, that vulgar tone simply rendered the novel somewhat adolescent and reliant on the use of shock factor instead of writing skill.When analyzing writing skill, there is a profound lack of character development, so that Aristotle himself is merely a talking head, as are most of the enormous cast of characters There s nothing there for me to hang on to And that lack of character development extends to lack of environmental detail, so that what should have been a very alive, vibrant, sensory plunge into ancient Greece and Macedon, instead remain a grey slate waiting for colour There was no sense of heat or cold, of architecture or furnishing, of environment or countryside The only explicit detail Lyon ever uses is that of periodic, clinical gore, or base sexuality.It may be that this sensory deprivation was Lyon s attempt to reflect the lack of depth and character in her protagonist, Aristotle, but for me it was like reading a green screen, waiting for the magic to appear.If Lyon s novel, The Golden Mean, is the standard by which we now measure excellence, then I am outdated, antiquated and obsolete. 2.5 stars.I bought this book many years ago, then stuck it on a shelf and forgot it Every now and again, I would look at it on the shelf, then choose something else to read Jo Walton got me to pick this book up and finally read it No, I don t know Jo Walton, but I finished reading her Thessaly series, and those books reminded me I had this.So, preamble out of the way, what did I think of this.The blurbs on the cover made me think I was holding the work of THE Canadian novelist, comparing Annabel Lyon to Alice Munro I m not sure I d agree with that comparison, but I do think she s a good writer The book describes the years Aristotle spent tutoring young Alexander that conqueror guy before returning to Athens I knew nothing about that period in history, other than Alexander later went on to much short lived success.The book s opening sentence let me know I wasn t in for pretty, philosophical speeches There is an earthiness to the story, featuring blood, sex, knives, plotting, masculinity and its blindness and cost.The story is told from Aristotle s perspective He seemed happiest investigating natural phenomena and writing about his findings, instead of interacting with others The Alexander we meet is young and needing some guidance and teaching he s also seen as a bit strange by some this strangeness is explored a little in the book Lyons shows us examples of Alexander s curiosity, strength, and loneliness She also shows us a little of what the other characters find frightening in Alexander.I found for all that we re in Aristotle s head for the entire book, I didn t get a good feel for him He seemed proud, arrogant and superior I found him to be a bit of a knob, at times Women don t figure prominently in this book, as this story is about masculine relationships We only get to spend a little time with Pythias, Aristotle s wife, and we see her through him them having sex, her keeping a comfortable home for him, him talking to and at her I wanted to see muchof her.I would not say this is a great book I m still on the fence about whether this is a good book The writing was good, and clever in parts, but I didn t find myself racing through this book, desperate to find out what happens next I d say it was interesting, and a little slow going. Well, after trying to decide whether or not I wanted to read this book, I finally took the plunge after a bookstore owner highly recommended it I had feared that the book which tells of the relationship between Aristotle and Alexander soon to be the Great from Aristotle s point of view might be dry and academic That certainly was not the case In very contemporary, muscular there really isn t another word for it prose, Annabel Lyon gives us a fascinating fictionalization of Alexander s boyhood under the tutoring of the great philosopher, Aristotle Along the way we learn of Aristotle s own childhood, his losses, his education and his his journey to marriage and fatherhood While I didn t feel the book was 100% satisfying not sure why it felt incomplete the book could have easily been twice as long without losing the reader , I do think that Lyon is a writer to watch Her style is straightforward and yet at the same time descriptive This book has been shortlisted for ALL of the major literary awards in Canada this year, and it s easy to see why I cannot wait for her next book. Let me summarize this book for you.Aristotle Join me, Alexander Feel the power of the Dark Side.Alexander Never Aristotle Alexander, I AM YOUR FATHER.Alexander No Aristotle Look within your heart, Alexander, which is actually a heart, and is not merely the shadow of an ideal heart, because how the hell did Plato think that would work anyway You know it to be true.Alexander Noooooooo Aristotle chops off Alexander s hand with a light sabre wait, no, sorry, that s Star Wars Let s try this again.Aristotle Everything the light touches is your kingdom.Alexander WowAristotle A king s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun One day, Alexander, the sun will set on Philip s time here, and will rise with you as the new king Alexander What s that dark part over there Aristotle That is Persia We do not speak of it Later, Aristotle gets trampled to death by wildebeest while Alexander looks on, and it is ALL HIS FAULT Then his uncle becomesno, no, now that s Lion King DAMN IT.OK, don t worry, I got this.Aristotle If you ll just concede the necessity of going to school, we ll go on having conversations about leadership every night just as we always have Is it a bargain Alexander Yes, sirprepares to spit on his hand Aristotle We ll consider it sealed without the usual formality Now about Boo Radley.Nailed it. This is a beautifully written book but don t let it fool you into thinking its lyricism lacks substance This is a history lecture masked as fiction, each word backed by research and hard work The mask hiding it all, convincing us we re reading tales of long death myths, is made of details that grab our senses, intoxicating us We hear the cries of a man suspected of possession as his head is open to let the demons bleed out And we smell the horrifying destiny of a man jailed for writing of truths the Great Alexander prefers to ignore And we feel the weariness of a troop, journeying under heavy rain, their cargo exotic and dying, as they follow Aristotle and his wife on their way to Pella, where he will teach the youngest son of King Philip how to be a king, a forger of empires.Annabel Lyon recreates the landscape of ancient Macedonia with strokes loaded with salt from the Mediterranean and the wind and sun of a thousand days She watercolors her words with rainy autumns and octopus ink, delivering us into an old world, cruel and unforgiving It s the beauty portrayed by Lyon that highlights the violence of the times And among it all, we see Aristotle become a man, a husband, a teacher We see he doubting himself, and forgiving himself It s through Lyon s words that Aristotle becomes human And It s through his eyes that we witness the horrifying yet mesmerizing reality of a moment in history and a place in the world when and where slavery, rape, beatings and murders are the norm, the only way, the best way This is not a fast paced book, but it will grab your imagination and it won t let go until you ve read its last page, and perhaps not even then.
Annabel Lyon was born in 1971 Her first book of fiction, the short story collection Oxygen Porcupine s Quill, 2000 , was published to wide acclaim, and was nominated for the Danuta Gleed and ReLit awards Her short fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including Toronto Life, The Journey Prize Anthology, and Write Turns New Directions in Canadian Fiction Lyon is also a frequent contri
- 288 pages
- The Golden Mean
- Annabel Lyon
- 03 February 2018 Annabel Lyon