An Arrow’s Flight by Mark Merlis / My rating: ★★★★★
One sentence summary: Pyrrhus, a gay hustler and son of Achilles, is recruited to fulfill his destiny in the Trojan war, but before they sail to Troy they make a very important pit stop.
You give yourself up to the Fates either way; either way you get what you don’t deserve.
Plot: Witty. Intelligent. Incredible. This is a novel with many layers: Greek mythology, an exploration of gay male identity, and commentary on homosexuality in modern society. The pacing was never fast, but always consistent- it took its time telling the story, and Merlis had a way of making every detail imperative. It was one of those stories that made me care slowly, but tremendously. It leaves a melancholy, bittersweet taste in its wake: a distant comfort.
Characters: I liked Pyrrhus. I hated him. I always wanted him to win. He was an incredibly fascinating character; naïve and boyish, selfish and thoughtless, pitiful yet powerful. I cared about him but didn’t want to because I kept expecting him to break my heart, which is how, consequently, most characters revolved around him. I always, always wanted them to win, even though that meant someone had to lose. It’s a story of male characters, of male identity, and each character offers a different, intricate side to it. And I have to mention Philoctetes, my favorite. Poor, wonderful Philoctetes.
Writing: Unique. Funny. Wordy in a way that made me want every letter and was never tempted to skim or look ahead. The story is told by a third party narrator, a separate being who occasionally interjects with his own wisdom or commentary on the story, and helped, I think, to keep things in perspective. He occasionally points at the reader and says, “You! Remember that time when you…” and brings us into the story with him, puts us into the shoes of the characters by making us reflect on our own experiences. The writing was smart, witty, and engaging.
Was I satisfied? Yes. I was left thinking about the ending days after I read the last page. It’s one of those books that made me contemplate issues of the larger world that I am not very familiar with, and truly appreciate things I never had to, not being a gay male. It left me melancholy and full, and glad I had read it.