cover image Frenzy


Percival Everett. Graywolf Press, $12.95 (162pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-244-8

What transpires inside the mind of a god? Specifically, inside the mind of Dionysos, Greek god of wine, pleasure and eroticism? Everett's playful novel attempts to answer that question, weaving together the god's memories as narrated by Vlepo, Dionysos's mortal assistant and constant companion. Abandoning the American West of books such as Watershed and The Big Picture, the prolific novelist brings his sharp eye for the mutability of identity, the clash of myth and culture, and an offbeat humor, to this iconoclastic study in Greek mythology. Curious to understand his own experiences, Dionysos sends Vlepo into the ""temporal soup"" of his own godly memories, where he observes his master's experiences from different perspectives, such as that of a tick on the god's skull. Leaping through time and space with ease, Vlepo revisits events like Zeus's seduction of Semele, Dionysos's mother, and Zeus's subsequent revelation of his godhood, during which he incinerates Semele with his brilliance. Elsewhere, Vlepo observes the tragic death of Eurydice, and Orpheus's journey to Hades in an attempt to reclaim her. But the myth that shapes the book, is that of Agave, daughter of Kadmos and sister of Semele. Having slandered Semele and suggested that Zeus was not Dionysos's father, Agave eventually goes mad, killing her son, Pentheus. The choppiness of the narrative, however, prevents any real tension and saps the book's effectiveness. By Frenzy's end, the mind of this turbulent god remains as unknowable as in the beginning. (Jan.)