Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Arrow's Flight” as Want to Read:
An Arrow's Flight
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Arrow's Flight

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  739 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
The award-winning An Arrow's Flight tells the story of the Trojan War and Pyrrhus, the son of the fallen Achilles, now working as a go-go boy and hustler in the big city. Magically blending ancient headlines and modern myth, Merlis creates a fabulous new world where legendary heroes declare their endowments in personal ads and any panhandler may be a divinity in disguise. ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published September 24th 1999 by Stonewall Inn Editions (first published 1998)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An Arrow's Flight, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about An Arrow's Flight

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rachel by: Steph
I loved this book, but I'm not really sure who I'd recommend it to. Having some kind of knowledge or passion for Greek mythology seems requisite going in - I can't imagine getting much enjoyment out of this if you aren't familiar with the original stories that Merlis is adapting and expounding on and subverting - but this is not your run of the mill Homeric retelling.

You start the novel with Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, and you think you're going to Troy. That's how the story goes, anyway - Achille
There are good novels and there are really good novels; then there are a transcendent few that should be read by everyone. Too often these stories are not only not read by those cognizant of the very best stories gay literature has to offer, they aren't even known about. This is one of those novels. I stumbled across the author and his novel while Googling something like "The Top Ten Best Gay Novels Ever Written." Fortunately, I came across this site .

Nathan Burgoine
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: glbt
This was one of the best re-tellings I've ever read. Pyrrhus, the son of now-dead Achilles, is about to face up to his destiny. That said, he's been working as a stripper in a local gay bar, can barely afford the rent (and as such will likely turn to being a call-boy), and being the quarter-divine son of a vaguely known water goddess isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

Merlis has blended ancient Troy and its legends by shifting them to a quasi-contemporary setting; Achilles managed to lead the
Ulysses Dietz
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Mark Merlis' "An Arrow's Flight" is a really interesting read. The narrative is built on the intriguing placement of the last years of the Trojan war in modern day, and basing the convoluted plot line on the proposition that Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, is a young gay man working as a hustler in the City.

Although this is clearly a novel written in the first decade of the 21st century, all through "An Arrow's Flight" I kept thinking of the trailblazing gay novels of the 1980s, Andrew Holleran's "Dan
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some may think it a little too clever for its own good, but I like this book a lot. How can you not like a novel in which a gay demigod making a living as a hustler turns out to be essential to winning the Trojan war? All the homoeroticism leached out of most stagings or retellings of Greek myth is right here on the surface. And eroticism--sex, lust, desire, love--is very much on Merlis' mind. It isn't enough for the Greeks to persuade Achilles' son, Pyrrhus--the aforementioned divine sex worker ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, that was awesome. Loved it.
May 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: relationships
AN ARROW’S FLIGHT (1998): a novel by Mark Merils is brilliant and irreverent. It disrespects conventional writing, storytelling, and history — and the author, I think, had great fun in doing so. It is an existential inquiry about the human condition hidden within Greek Mythology and Gay Identity. I read it not as a story about the Trojan War or the difficulties of being Gay in a warrior dominated world; but as a universal story about love, sex, lying, subterfuge, and the ultimate question: Who a ...more
Jason Prodoehl
This book. This book. What can I tell you about the story of this book? I'll tell you this: I started it, and immediately within the first few pages, felt annoyed by it. It wasn't quite what I expected. It tells a story of a young man during the Trojan War, except the characters all seem to have been transported to New York during the late 1970s/very early 1980s. For some reason, I just didn't get it. While I waited for my next book to be ready for pickup at the San Francisco Public Library, I r ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it it was ok
It's the Trojan War, updated as a reflection on gay issues. The concept of Achilles' son Pyrrhus working as a dancer/hustler is a good one, but overall I didn't like this book. When push comes to shove, I'd rather read Sophocles.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tells the story of Pyrrhus/Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, you know, the one who finally does sack Troy (and kills old Priam in such bloody detail in Book II of the Aeneid). That's fine. The neat thing about it is the "the time is now; the place, Ancient Greece" conceit that Merlis uses to tell the story, and that it's a very (very) gay Pyrrhus who is our (anti-)hero. Pyrrhus, abandoned by his father at a young age, has run away from his island home and his responsibilities as prince, angry at ...more
Feb 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Blending Greek myth and contemporary gay life, Merlis fully explores the questions of life and lust, desire and destiny, through the misadventures of Pyrrhus, Achilles' gay son. Escaping palace life for 'the city,' he finds that waiting tables doesn't pay the rent, so he becomes a popular gogo boy, then a hustler. But the emptiness of paid sex leaves him indifferent and torn. Will he find love amid so much base sexuality?

In the second half of the novel, Odysseus arrives to convince Pyrrhus to jo
OOF. Spoilers ahead. Even though the spoilers could conceivably be listed as part of the premise, it was my favorite discovery as I was reading.

(here they come)

I thought the AIDS metaphor was very clever. A little part of my brain sat up and thought "oh well done" when I realized what was happening. (I imagine this voice like a stodgy old English chap, readjusting his monocle and then golf clapping at the end of some recitation held in a small library somewhere in Cambridge. Well done good fel
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Rachel by: Christin
Shelves: boys
I loved that this is set in the past, but reads like it's taking place right now. Being written like that makes it all the more fun to read, as if they Ancient Greeks really went clubbing way back when, and things like that. I find it also helps you keep in mind that it's fiction.

After reading The Song of Achilles, I took the attitude that Pyrrhus was a little shit who I wanted to smack, but this book paints him very differently, so it was nice to get another point of view. In contrast, this boo
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this one.
Both wittily(?)and smartly written. Has a joyride feel to it as it took me through the Trojan war story in a re-imagined and very different way. Left me feeling both satisfied and better.
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If, having read the Iliad, you want there to be less Achilles and more strippers, this is the book for you.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Merlis's writing actually shocked me. In reading about his characters I felt he was articulating emotional struggles to which I myself had always failed to ascribe words. Brilliant.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it did not like it
"The sight of the guy's friendly, welcoming butt filled Pyrrhus's throat with sorrow and loss." That is an actual line from this tedious novel that imagines Achilles' son as a gay go-go dancer and prostitute. I was hesitant going into the book, as the exploits of a Adonis-like, white, gay character living it up in the city sounded quite cliche. However, my love for Greek literature (and for modern adaptations of classical works) prompted me to give it a try. Unfortunately, Merlis never rises abo ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reread this book after loving it when I first read it almost 20 years ago. Happy to report that I loved it even MORE this time around. It's brilliant, and heartbreaking, and comes closest, I think, to being the Great American Gay Novel (or gay white male novel, at least). It really is a sharp-eyed glimpse into the psyches of men who are told, their whole lives, that there is something "wrong" with them and that there is only one way to be a man. Also, as a writer, I love this line: "Of course th ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it liked it
An oddly quirky book - the retelling of a portion of the Troy story in a modern day setting, with the two main characters gay. A bit difficult to follow sometimes, so it took me longer to read it than I thought it would. But I like the way he writes, and I like his perspective
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Troy. Was there ever a young sissy who didn't dream of Troy? Its floodlit bridges and temples at night, by day the sun-splashed sidewalk cafes and teeming markets, the chanteuses at the supper clubs and the black-clad widows walking their terriers in the parks and the cobbled streets. Troy, center of gastronomy and fashion--every sort of fashion, from the newest ism to the fall couture."

Have you ever fallen fully and inexplicably in love? Well I have and it's with this novel.

Pyrrhus--which mean
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay, first-edition
I am not well-read in Greek mythology: I was always bored by the huge number of nearly indiguishable characters, the unbelievable events, and the patchwork nature of it all. As such, I can't review this book relative to the actual Trojan War and the events with are retold with alternate gay characters in Merlis's book. However, Merlis does manage to add the missing homoerotic content to the myth and tells a fun, sexy, and literate story - for the first half of the book.

Unfortuntely, he abandons
Apr 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
I thought the concept was great, and I thought it made some valid and relevant points, even more than a decade after it was written. But it was dull and a letdown.


I've been giving this book more thought. I'm not sure I'm ready to change my initial rating. Critically speaking, I thought the author executed the concept well. The way he layered a Greek motif over modern life was excellent. I think the thing that disappointed me so much in this novel was the expectation of fol
Jun 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Inventive, entirely different to anything else I've read and historically intriguing.

I can't say that I was gripped by it, nor that the main character was easy to like, but I developed a sense of admiration for his choices in the closing chapters, and I'd a fondness for Philoctetes. I've always had a soft spot for the tragic characters.

If you're after something racy, this isn't it. The erotic scenes aren't scarce, but they don't seem to be written to titillate. In fact they seem to be realistic
Carole B
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-2015
Merlis did well developing characters and blending the Trojan war with a modern urban world. Though his decision to use a contemporary attitude toward sexuality was very distracting for me, I can understand why he did so, and his use of metaphor was well-woven. His narrative attitude was enhanced by moments of direct address to the reader by the narrator, which provided perspective on the events and characters, and an awareness that made the book more enjoyable.
Bryan Schwartz
May 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Perhaps this book gets better in the second half, but I haven't the patience or the desire to find out. Although Merlis focuses on sex less than other LGBT authors, I found the modern setting too difficult and tiresome to reconcile with the Trojan myth. I suspect that An Arrow's Flight is more entertaining for (gay) fanboys of Greek myth. If that's the case, so be it.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So far the book is spellbinding. I don't understand why I never read it before now; I purchased it years ago.

Merged review:

Odd, I thought I already reviewed this delirious book. It's a splendid read. Can't recommend it enough.
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have just finished reading this book again after I first read it about 2 years ago. It is strange that so much of it I remembered differently, but I still love this book. One of the great gay books I think and is written completely for a gay male audience.
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
It just ends....
B. Jean
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting take on Neoptolemus, Achille's son. It was both modern and ancient, with the use of common household appliances & night clubs, but set in a time of armor, swords, and bows. So bizarre. It worked though, which was the weirdest part of it.

This won an award for gay fiction in 1998. The contrast between the ultra straight Achilles-everything a man should aspire to be, and his gay son-who was a stripper, was... interesting. I guess I'd always been told that Achilles a
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Backlot Gay B...: An Arrow's Flight by Mark Merlis 1 20 Sep 18, 2013 03:51AM  
  • Gaywyck
  • The God in Flight
  • The Soldier of Raetia (Valerian's Legion, #1)
  • Like People in History
  • Now and Then
  • While England Sleeps
  • The Carnivorous Lamb
  • Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
  • The Phoenix
  • Eighty-Sixed
  • The Master of Seacliff
  • Whistling in the Dark
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Father of Frankenstein
  • The Coming Storm
  • The Boy I Love (The Boy I Love Trilogy, #1)
  • A Son Called Gabriel
  • Brethren (Raised by Wolves, #1)
Mark Merlis is an American writer and health policy analyst. He became an independent consultant in 2001, writing papers for government agencies and for organizations such as AARP, the American Cancer Society, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Born in Framingham, Massachusetts and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Merlis attended Wesleyan University and Brown University. He subsequently took a job wit