The Wreckage of Agathon
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The Wreckage of Agathon

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  144 ratings  ·  13 reviews
Laid to waste by drink, Agathon, a seer, is a shell of a man. He sits imprisoned with his apprentice, Peeker, for his presumed involvement in a rebellion against the Spartan tyrant Lykourgos. Confined to a cell, the men produce extraordinary writings that illustrate the stories of their lives and give witness to Agathon's deterioration and the growth of Peeker from a bashf...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published December 1st 1974 by Ballantine Books (NY) (first published 1970)
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I have loved Gardner's Grendel since reading it in high school but never got around to reading anything else of his until this. This time the story is set in ancient Sparta, although the chronology is deliberately vague and we have characters from several different periods (Lyucurgus, circa 820-730 BCE, Solon, 638-533 BCE living as contemporaries). None of this really matters though as Gardner's point is not to relate history. Instead we get a vivid if anachronistic picture of life in ancient Sp...more
After I finished this book, I realized that when I think philosophically, I inevitably conclude that killing myself is the only logical thing to do. This book only intensifies that. But I love this book! What to do...
M. D.  Hudson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rick Strong
The Wreckage Of Agathon is historical fiction set for the most part in Sparta ~ 7th century BCE. Sparta has recently been invaded by the Dorians and the semi-historical tyrant and lawgiver Lykourgos is in the process of founding the admirable/horrible social institutions that characterized Spartan society: militarism, a brutal egalitarianism, lack of concern for money enforced by the abolishment of gold and silver currency, and oppression and exploitation of the native Achaians (Helots) whom the...more
On the surface this is the story of a rather silly old man and his foolish follower who tackle the politics and military mindset of Sparta. The real story, though, is far more complicated and concerns the nature of love and loyalty. I can't say this is my favorite Gardner but it is a good book. I gave it three stars because I think most people would find it difficult to hang in with the story. It took me over a month to read it by picking it up and putting it back down.
Erik Graff
Mar 31, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Gardner or historlco-philosophical novels set in ancient Greece
Recommended to Erik by: Janny Marie Willis
Shelves: literature
Like Grendel, I read The Wreckage of Agathon (i.e. the Good) too early and didn't get a lot of it, not knowing too much at the time about Agathon's interlocutor, Lycourgos, legendary lawgiver of Sparta.
The book, as one might suppose, is about "the best laid plans" of men, both individually (Agathon) and socially (Sparta).
DJ Dycus
Interesting depiction of a seer/philosopher trying to be a part of the rough-and-tumble world of Spartan politics. Gardner shows many different responses to the tyrannical set of laws by Lycourgos. As with Grendel, Gardner's anachronisms are compelling--he makes the 7th-century BC a world with which we can identify.
Bought this on the strength of Grendel. Read it. Didn't understand it at the time. Only partially understand the back story now. I seriously recommend reading up on Solon and Agathon (real people from 7th Cent. Sparta) before jumping in.
Lee Thompson
Dec 06, 2012 Lee Thompson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everybody
Loved it! Gardner was a genius until sweet, cold Death took his hand. This is a historical I guess. Deals a lot with love/hate directed both inwardly and outwardly, on a personal and social scale. Lyrical, funny, dark and creative.
I found this book in a used bookstore having never heard of the author. I loved the journey and the humanity with which Gardner imbues all the characters with shades of gray.
Kyle Muntz
For some reason, I wasn't able to finish this novel--occasionally, certain sections were very powerful, but the piece as a whole was sort missing something to me.
Matt Gaither
My least favorite of Gardner's novels. The philosophical tone is certainly intentional, but I struggled getting any traction with the narrative.
Gotta love onions!
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John Champlin Gardner was a well-known and controversial American novelist and university professor, best known for his novel Grendel, a retelling of the Beowulf myth.

Gardner was born in Batavia, New York. His father was a lay preacher and dairy farmer, and his mother taught English at a local school. Both parents were fond of Shakespeare and often recited literature together. As a child, Gardner...more
More about John Gardner...
Grendel The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers On Becoming a Novelist October Light The Sunlight Dialogues

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