Odysseus and the Sirens by John William Waterhouse
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The last piece from the Szereto collection about revenge was Szereto’s own piece and I was having none of it.  However I am glad to report that I enjoyed the latest story.  Rosie Jackson‘s “Echo” has some issues: a silly take on American male identity fed in part by her Rush Limbaugh-like treatment of feminism and a ham-fisted reference to Echo and Narcissus.

The nutshell version of the story is a normally loud and proud woman falls in love with an American writer.  She then serves as his Echo, repeating what he says as brilliance and this allows him to be successful.  She grows tired and stops parroting him and instead begins to mutate his ramblings into transgressive axioms and his success and life then collapse.

What redeems the story from the eye-rolling inducements are these very transgressions.  The first instance:

‘I got the deal, honey,; he grinned.  ‘You’ll be so proud of me.  The world’s my oyster.’

‘Oysters in honey,’ I fumbled.  ‘Deal the pride.  Get the me.’ (137).

En-couraged by his obliviousness, the protagonist pushes further:

‘Something’s not right here.  I need to get back to my previous vein.’

‘Vain,’ I pointed out.

‘I’m running out of time here babe.  Maybe you could put together my invoices?’

‘Maybe you could put my voice in.’ (137)

It’s a short read and only the 10th in the anthology.  There are 17 total, but so far this particular story is my second favorite.  The ending, however, should have been given a final edit.  The story contains a reference to a Narcissus flower but the ending is over the top in its relation to the same flower, as though the reader needs the additional lecture to understand the allusion.

Jackson should have taken her cue from THE classic ancient text about not needing to say everything.  Note the discussion about the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey.  The Sirens sing a song and Homer tells us about the legend and what happens.  Homer even has Odysseus listen to the song, but never once does Homer tell us what they sing.

Todorov tells us that they sing, “we sing.”  So the Siren song is self-referential and as sailors escape the Sirens are then forced to hurl themselves off the cliffs because the song is death itself.  Consequently there is no song for Homer to recount (58-9).  Pucci’s account, however, places the absence as an act of humility.  If Homer were to include the sublime verse of the Sirens’ song then Homer would, in effect, be calling his own verse more sublime .  It seems obvious why Homer would want to avoid this interpretation.

Salecl, however, has a superior account which envelopes both Pucci’s and Todorov’s positions:

…the Siren’s song is the point in the narrative that has to remain unspoken for the narrative to gain consistency.  It is a point of self-referentiality that a story has to omit in order to attain the status of a story. (61)

“Echo” can end the way it does, but Jackson should have omitted the final Narcissus reference because that reference turns “Echo” from a story about a relationship informed by the Echo and Narcissus myth into an example of the myth.  And a bad example at that because the analogic is too easily disrupted.

Jackson, Rosie.  (2007).  Echo.  In Mitzi Szereto, ed.  Getting even: Revenge stories (133-39).  London: Serpent’s Tail.

Pucci, Pietro.  (1987.)  Odysseus Polutropos: Intertextual readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Calecl, Renata.  (1998).  (per)versions of love and hate.  London: Verso Books.

Todorov, Tzvetan.  (1977).  The poetics of prose. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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