Lovefool 01.06.14 | And Aphrodite Was Her Name

Who could be a better subject for Lovefool than the goddess of love herself? Lovefool checks out Aphrodite’s spotlight in the latest volume of George O’Connor’s Olympians series.

 

Nerdings! Hello! Did you have happy holidays? Mine, as per tradition, are still going on and will continue until I have my birthday party this weekend. I’m turning 32, which seems like a nice boring age. I’m pleased with it, it’s a nice round number. And, hey, how about that snow? I’m not sure we’re ever going to make it out of our house, to be honest. Which isn’t a complaint, more an observation. This weekend has been kind of a mess. In the last 48 hours or so, I have had a hell of a weekend: I’ve had a migraine that prevented me from getting Snow Day Drunk (DAMMIT), slept it off, realized one of my cats has figured out that my 3:00-4:00 AM Insomniac’s Hour of non-sleep marks his best shot at competition-free pets time and nudging it along is in his best interest and, just kind of circling all that, I’m trying desperately to finish unpacking from our move (last March!) before said birthday party on Saturday. All of that mostly means that I’m browsing Buzzfeed and watching a thousand K-pop videos, thanks to this list. They’re right, though, American pop is super boring in comparison. And Buzzfeed is the enemy of productivity.
 
It works, though, because we’re leading the year off with the next installment of George O’Connor’s First Second-published Olympians saga, Aphrodite: Goddess of Love. It, like the aforementioned K-pop, is gloriously shiny. The art, at times, reminds me a little of Jamie McKelvie and it’s done in beautiful full-color—both of which are big selling points for me. The Olympians series isn’t O’Connor’s first time around the block, though, nor is it his first outing into history. That would be his full-length work Journey Into Mohawk Country, which finds him illustrating the actual diary entries of a Dutch trader in 1630s America. Go ahead, revisit that sentence. Intriguing, no? We here at Lovefool, Inc., love us a nerd and you can tell that O’Connor, for all his living-in-Brooklyn-and-drawing-amazing-artist-picture appearances, is a nerd’s nerd. And good on him since it allows him to infuse his stories of Greek legends with the humor and attention to detail these stories deserve and only a devoted student could provide. Aphrodite is a fairly small book, clocking in at 80 pages, but it packs a lot into that story.
 
A stunning retelling of creation myths, Olympian politics, that gorgeous color palette (which I’ve just realized is so striking because it reminds me of the sea, which plays a big part in my favorite of Aphrodite’s origin myths – I see what you did there) and an accurate retelling of the old legends I grew up reading are all a big part of this book. But it’s really the casual grace in O’Connor’s storytelling, those little bits of humor that slip through what could otherwise be a very dry tale, that make this special. His Aphrodite is stunningly beautiful, of course, but she’s also unapologetically clever and worldly and more than a little sly. She’s also kind of a jerk, as displayed in the included retelling of “The Judgement of Paris,” where she lies to a dude you might have heard of just so he’ll declare her the fairest of them all and she can be all smug about it to Hera and Athena. That’s it. That’s all she wants from it, that little dig, but she, as befits a myth, sets a lot into motion. It’s a story that’s a bit jarring at the best of times since it really highlights the petty squabbling that could be found on Mount Olympus.
 
Speaking of jerky, after Zeus arranges a bit of a shotgun wedding to prevent war on Olympus for her hand, she cheats on her nice but stolid husband all the time. He worships her, despite his own divinity and knowledge that other gods sure seem to be hanging around an awful lot, and makes her really pretty presents that she wears to seduce other lovers. She has a kid, Eros (Cupid for the rest of us) that just kind of shows up. She never explains and indulges him shamelessly.
 
But lest you spend the post-creation myth parts of the book muttering about beautiful mean girls, O’Connor also includes the myth of Pygmalion, where Aphrodite anonymously grants an artist’s wish for his work to morph from cold, dead stone to real girl just because she believes a love like the artist’s “is love that must be shared.” That tale ends here with a disguised Aphrodite wishing the artist and his newly live work happiness while refusing their befuddled thanks. Aphrodite’s handmaidens, the Three Charities (or Graces, whichever), make an appearance and act as the narrative thread of the book when they’re not cooing over her adventures and dressing her hair and twitching her robes just so. They seem to have a fairly good working relationship.
 
Accuracy aside, my very favorite part of this tale is the warmth that seeps from every page. Aphrodite lived large, even for an Olympian. She was contradictory—she was the goddess of love and wanted to spread it throughout the world but she and Eros were so, so mischievous with how that spread was executed. She rises from the sea laughing while the very water itself transforms itself to something that can stay with her forever. The Three Charities immediately fall in love with her, despite “trafficking in beauty” themselves, as does the male population of the world, both mortal and deity. The entire world remembers love, at that point, even the parts of it thought to beyond the slumbering reach of such things.
 
But I’m starting to spoil things. I know, it sounds so silly to say I’m spoiling things that you can look up on Wikipedia but, really, that’s the great part about these stories—they’re told a hundred different ways by a hundred different people. George O’Connor chooses my favorite slices of this tale and breathes life into them, like Aphrodite did for Pygmalion so very long ago. He loves what he does and it shows. You’ll probably fall in love with Aphrodite during your time in this world, too, despite the fact that she’s a tricksy creature, thanks to the magic of this work. Which, ultimately, makes it almost as beautiful as the subject. | Erin Jameson
 
For more information and preview of Aphrodite: Goddess of Love, visit http://us.macmillan.com/aphrodite/GeorgeOConnor!

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