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Archives > Labour 2: To Slay the Lernean Hydra

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message 1: by Patrick (last edited Jan 24, 2017 11:19PM) (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 964 comments The Myth

The Lernean Hydra was a serpentine water monster with several heads, living in the Lake of Lerna in the Argolid. It was raised by Hera with the specific aim to slay Hercules. This redoubtable beast possessed regenerative features, which meant that by losing one head, one or several would grow back. Further, the Hydra had poisonous blood and breath, so much so that even its scent was deadly.

For his second Labour, Eurystheus sent Hercules to slay the Hydra. Ever confident in his abilities and cleverness, Hercules covered his mouth and nose with a cloth to avoid succumbing to the poisonous scent of the Hydra and proceeded to pepper its lair (the spring of Amymone) with several flaming arrows. Once the beast emerged from its hiding place, Hercules fought it with a sickle, methodically chopping head after head. However, Hercules probably understood Sisyphus’ predicament too well when he realized that the chopped heads were growing back as soon as they were cut.

Exhausted from being flat out fighting like a lizard drinking, Hercules sought some help from his clever nephew Iolaus. The latter, ever practical, cauterized the neck stumps with a firebrand as soon as Hercules was chopping their heads. The battle, progressing too well to the Gods’ liking, nearly turned into a Battle Royale when Hera dropped a crab to distract Hercules and Athena provided him with a golden sword. Hercules squashed the crab away and cut off the Hydra’s one remaining head with the golden sword. Like a good tradesman who cleans up his mess and recycles spare parts for better use, Hercules put the head out of the way under a huge rock and dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s poisonous blood for possible future use.

When he reported back to Eurystheus, the latter found out that he had a helper on this job and declared that, as a result, the Labour could not count as completed…

The Books

Which of these ophidian-themed books will you choose to “decapitate” for your second Labour?

The Plumed Serpent (D. H. Lawrence) 3 points
The Knot of Vipers (aka Vipers’ Tangle) (François Mauriac) 2 points

To earn the points associated with either book, you can only read and review the chosen book between 2017-02-01, midnight EST (New York) and 2017-02-28, midnight EST (New York). You should post your reviews below, clearly identifying which book you are reviewing.


message 2: by Diane (new)

Diane Zwang | 1268 comments Mod
I am going to read the Knot of Vipers.


message 3: by John (new)

John Seymour Ophidian. Nice.


message 4: by MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) (last edited Jan 25, 2017 03:15PM) (new)

MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) | 1 comments I think I am going to attempt The Plumed Serpent

For anyone who would like to know:

The Plumed Serpent:
I found 2 versions of the book in Kindle.
One book has 600+ pages the other 400+ both for 99 cents each

The Knot of Vipers (aka Vipers’ Tangle)
Viper's Tangle was a little less than $4


message 5: by John (last edited Jan 25, 2017 12:53PM) (new)

John Seymour Well, my library here has neither. And the ILL function no longer works, so that stinks. But I checked Amazon and Plumed Serpent was available on kindle for $0.99. Knot of Vipers was ridiculously pricey (cheapest I saw in English was $20.00 for a 60 year old beat up version; one guy was asking for north of $200 for a paperback), though much more reasonable in the original - I thought for awhile about tackling Le Noeud De Viperes - $5.99 on Kindle, but decided I wasn't up for that on a timed reading challenge. At least not yet.

So, Plumed Serpent for me.


message 6: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 558 comments I read Vipers' Tangle last year- but I found it at the Grinnell College library.


message 7: by Diane (new)

Diane  | 2050 comments I own the actual book for Viper's Tangle, but only an eBook for The Plumed Serpent, so I will go with Viper's Tangle. I have wanted to read this for quite a while.


message 8: by Paula (new)

Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments D. H. Lawrence's books are no longer protected by copyright and can be downloaded through GoodReads if one goes to the book's page here.


message 9: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 2029 comments Mod
Paula wrote: "D. H. Lawrence's books are no longer protected by copyright and can be downloaded through GoodReads if one goes to the book's page here."

Great spot Paula I am going with The Plumed Serpent :)


message 10: by John (new)

John Seymour Paula wrote: "D. H. Lawrence's books are no longer protected by copyright and can be downloaded through GoodReads if one goes to the book's page here."

Doh! I wonder if I can get my 99 cents back from Amazon.


message 11: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1434 comments I bought the Kindle version of the Plumed Serpent, too, but, for once, it was cheaper! It cost me USD0.85 so I will use that version. So much easier to mark passages with a Kindle version.


message 12: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 292 comments The library has a French version of Mauriac's book. I'll go with that.


message 13: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 964 comments Sushicat wrote: "The library has a French version of Mauriac's book. I'll go with that."

From what I recall, with German, English and French in your language quiver, you definitely have more chances than any of us to complete the List. At least, you will be able to read Halbzeit and a few of the Dutch ones which might have been translated in German.


message 14: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 292 comments Patrick wrote: "Sushicat wrote: "The library has a French version of Mauriac's book. I'll go with that."

From what I recall, with German, English and French in your language quiver, you definitely have more chanc..."


It certainly helps. So far I can remember only one book that was unavailable in any of these languages (The New World). It looks as though this Herkulean tasklist will push me to use all my language capabilities. Reading from the list has pushed down the English share in my reading a tiny bit, which I consider a good thing.


message 15: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 964 comments You can now start the second Labour.


message 16: by Diane (last edited Feb 06, 2017 10:45AM) (new)

Diane  | 2050 comments I decided to read both books, since I had not read either. I will claim the points for The Plumed Serpent, since I read it first.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Read: February 2017

This is the story of a 40 year-old Irishwoman and her experiences in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. She divorced her first husband and was widowed from her second. We never really know why she is there in the first place. She initially seems appalled by the country, its traditions, and its people. Despite this, she finds herself drawn into a pagan religious cult and the men who lead it.

This is not my favorite of DH Lawrence. Although the story line is okay, there are many things that are off-putting about the book. I realize that books written in this time period often have racist overtones, but this one is very racist, in my opinion. The symbolism was over the top and seemed to me somewhat "phallic" (ex. many references to things like sperm-like water, manhood, snakes, and a general overuse of the word "erect"). This book also progresses at a rather slow pace. I think Lawrence is represented enough on the list and this book could have been easily omitted.


message 17: by Diane (new)

Diane Zwang | 1268 comments Mod
The Knot of Vipers by Francois Mauriac
4/5 stars

Part one, page one our protagonist states “You can thank your lucky stars that I have outlived my hatred. For years I believed that it was the most vital part of me.” And so our journey starts of Monsieur Louis who is aging and wants to write a letter to his wife explaining why his heart is “a knot of vipers.” The story starts out with this letter writing but then morphs into the history of his life and family.

I enjoyed the book from the start, I like the author's writing. I enjoyed the story even more as the plot thickened, it became like a mystery to me and I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. I was not in love with the ending but I realize that it was a full circle moment.

Look forward to reading what you all thought of this one.


message 18: by John (new)

John Seymour Diane wrote: "The Knot of Vipers by Francois Mauriac
4/5 stars

Part one, page one our protagonist states “You can thank your lucky stars that I have outlived my hatred. For years I believed that it was the most..."


Mostly wishing I had read this one instead of Plumed Serpent, which is going quite slowly. The Other Diane's criticisms of the book are, if anything, quite understated.


message 19: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1434 comments Very slowly for me, too. And I used to love Lawrence when I was young.


message 20: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 292 comments The Knot of Vipers by Francois Mauriac - 5 stars and a heart

Here is a book that at first glance I did not expect to like, as it's protagonist is an embittered old man full of resentment and distrust for the people around him, setting out to list his grievances for the benefit of his wife, to read after his death. But somehow this becomes an object lesson on how our expectations about life and those around us determine our perception of others and our reception by them. On how a grievance or a passion turns into obsession and eclipses all else. And how it takes but a small change of perspective to make a profound change in our perceptions, if only we dare take our eyes off what obsesses us. A timeless book, a new favorite.


message 21: by John (new)

John Seymour Sushicat wrote: "The Knot of Vipers by Francois Mauriac - 5 stars and a heart

Here is a book that at first glance I did not expect to like, as it's protagonist is an embittered old man full of resentment and distr..."


Very nice review. I really wish I had tracked this down.


message 22: by John (new)

John Seymour The Plumed Serpent, by D.H. Lawrence
★★

The best thing about having read this book is that I will no longer have to read it. Diane's review pretty much says it all. The Plumed Serpent is a mishmash of bad sociology, bad anthropology and bad theology all jumbled together in a noxious stew of racism, sexism and neo-paganism.


MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) | 1 comments Thanks, John for this review and warning. Since you don't find any redeeming qualities, I am in big trouble. ;-)


message 24: by John (last edited Feb 23, 2017 02:43PM) (new)

John Seymour MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) wrote: "Thanks, John for this review and warning. Since you don't find any redeeming qualities, I am in big trouble. ;-)"

It did get two stars. Lawrence's writing is at times brilliant, though for me it kept getting weighed down and running off the rail with the other issues I mention above. In the pagan cult he invents he comes frustratingly close to reflecting some key Catholic teachings (about marriage, for example), but he always gets it wrong. This reminded me in some respects of Thomas Jefferson sitting on the floor of the White House cutting and pasting to create a version of the Gospels that he liked better.

But no, I shouldn't think you'll enjoy it.


message 25: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 964 comments The Plumed Serpent (D.H. Lawrence) ***

I have mixed feelings about this novel. The quality of the writing was much better than his widely known and not-so-controversial novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover. It provides a pretty faithful portrait of some of the deep Mexican traits, just as described in The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz, which I am glad to have read previously. However, the pace of the novel is extremely slow; the subject matter required it to be slow, but Lawrence pushed it a bit too much on some parts. Kate, as a character, was exasperating because you felt you never knew what she wanted and was always saying 'no' and yielding to do the exact opposite in the next paragraph. This behaviour kept on until the very last sentence of the novel, in a disappointing and eye-rolling predictable ending. I still keep hope that he has better stuff on offer.


message 26: by Beverly (new)

Beverly (zippymom) | 95 comments The Plumed Serpent by D.H. Lawrence
The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence
3 stars

Although I thought this was beautifully written with such extraordinary descriptions of the people, their attire and their surroundings, this was just not my cup of tea. The beginning of the story, which takes place during the Mexican Revolution, is a trip to the bullfights reminding me of the scenes in The Sun Also Rises which I did not care for at all. Kate Leslie, one of the tourists watching the bullfight, leaves after deciding that she doesn't appreciate this type of "entertainment". She then meets a general from the Mexican army and shortly thereafter a friend of his who is a wealthy landowner. The two men, who are attempting to revive an ancient religion where they are living gods, convince Kate to travel back to a small town on a lake. Kate, at first, succumbs to the idea of the men's "cult" which seemed to me to put women into a very submissive position. My own personal feeling is that the book just kind of went on and on with songs/chants being included in their entirety. As usual, glad I read it so I can mark it off my list but it's not one that I would recommend.


message 27: by Pip (new)

Pip | 1434 comments Initially I was disappointed with The Plumed Serpent. I had adored D.H.Lawrence when I was young, but that was half a century ago. I assumed that this had been an early novel, but I was wrong. It was written well after my favourite, The Rainbow. Although the descriptions were vintage Lawrence (one would undoubtedly empathise with Kate's disgust at the bullfight because it was depicted so vividly) it quickly got bogged down in description and verse about a revival of Aztec beliefs which is being orchestrated by a charismatic fellow she meets, one Don Ramon. There are lengthy descriptions of the cult of Quetzalcoatl before Don Ramon's motives are revealed and the book begins to make some sense. "Quetzal is the name of a bird that lives high up in the tropical mountains, and has very beautiful tail-feathers, precious to the Aztecs. Coatl is a serpent. Quetzalcoatl is the Plumed Serpent, so hideous in the fanged, feathered, writhing stone of the National Museum". At this point I would have heartily agreed with a later description from the aforementioned Kate that it was all "high-flown bunk". My curiosity about where Lawrence was going with this (and my 1001 points) helped me to persist and I am so pleased I did. Don Ramon believed (as did Lawrence) that every society needs its own gods. He wanted Mexicans to unite in an emotional, religious fervour that restored their pride. Lawrence was critical of Western hegemony. "In attempting to convert the dark man to the white man's way of life, the white man has fallen helplessly down the hole he wanted to fill up. Seeking to save another man's soul, the white man lost his own, and collapsed upon himself". Don Ramon wrote poetic tracts to be read or sung to the peons, who were unlikely to be able to read them for themselves. He, in a particularly vivid section, ceremoniously removed the images of the crucified Christ and the Virgin Mary from the local church and replaced them with ancient Aztec symbols. Nevertheless a lot of Christian imagery was employed in the process. Quite a number of stones were rolled away from tombs, for example. The cross was replaced as a symbol by the Eye of the Other One. There was much talk of the Morning Star of the male and the Evening Star of the female. Which brings me to the other theme, that of gender politics. Lawrence had wrestled with the role of the modern woman in other books. His protagonist here is an Irish divorcee and widow, who is trying to forget that her second husband sacrificed himself for Irish Independence, which is presumably why she is drawn to Don Ramon! Kate sees herself as independent, not subservient to any man, and, indeed, not in need of one. She spends a great deal of time, however, thinking about Don Ramon's contention that male or female assume the role of the ravished, or of the ravisher. For reasons that are not made clear she ends up with a ceremonial role in the revived cult and an actual marriage to Don Ramon's sidekick, the little, but powerful and competent General Cipriano . While all this is going on, and there is a violent home invasion thrown in, Lawrence writes with lyrical ease of the lakeside town where the action takes place. It is so beautifully written that the reader feels that they have been there, at that time. Whereas, actually, he was writing from Taos, New Mexico. Lawrence is actually examining his own ideas about colonialism "For the white man, let him bluster as he may, is hollow with misgivings about his own superiority". Remember that this book was published in 1926, well before such ideas became mainstream. He has Kate conclude that "The blood is one blood. It was a strange, overbearing insistence, a claim of blood-unison". So the conclusion is, despite "Western women keeping their souls for themselves, in a sort of purse, as is were""only the man of a great star, a great divinity, can bring the opposites together in a new unison".


message 28: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 2029 comments Mod
The Plumed Serpent D H Lawrence
3 Stars

This was a real struggle for me to finish for the reasons others have mentioned above. The pace is slow and the story does get repetitive and slow and that ending bah!!


message 29: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 964 comments The time period to complete the second Labour is over. Any reviews posted after this comment will not count for the purpose of this challenge.


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