Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire

Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire

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by Julius Lester
     
 

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This is the story of Cupid—the god responsible for heartache, sleepless nights, and all those silly love songs—finally getting his comeuppance. When the god of love falls in love himself, things are bound to get interesting. And when he crosses his mama, Venus, in the process . . . Well, things could get downright messy.

The much-lauded author of

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Overview

This is the story of Cupid—the god responsible for heartache, sleepless nights, and all those silly love songs—finally getting his comeuppance. When the god of love falls in love himself, things are bound to get interesting. And when he crosses his mama, Venus, in the process . . . Well, things could get downright messy.

The much-lauded author of Pharaoh's Daughter and When Dad Killed Mom brings his renowned storytelling skills to one of the world's most famous tales. In doing so he weaves a romantic, hilarious drama brought to life with a bold new voice that's loaded with sly wisdom. Julius Lester's retelling is sure to draw new readers to classic mythology while satisfying old fans as well.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lester (Time's Memory) retells the tale of Cupid and Psyche, with appearances by some highly appealing lesser Greek and Roman characters, such as Oizys, goddess of pain, and the highly likeable Favonius, the West Wind, along with his other wind counterparts. Psyche comes across as especially sympathetic; her kindness is just as striking as her beauty. And even those familiar with the tale may be surprised at just how vindictive Psyche's jealous sisters can be, as they prompt Psyche to break her promise to Cupid (Cupid, who comes to Psyche only under cover of darkness, asks her to vow never to gaze upon his face or risk losing him forever). Unfortunately, the vague persona of the omniscient narrator here detracts from the pace and poetic details of the tale. The narrator reveals only tidbits of information about himself; for instance as he watches Psyche's wedding procession, he notes, "This reminds me of my weddings. At all six of them, the bride cried." He also conjures a rather contentious relationship with "the story," as when he raises the question of how it is that Psyche never detected Cupid's wings in all their nights of lovemaking: "I asked the story about it. The story scratched its head and looked very confused." Still, for fans of romance and mythology, this is highly entertaining. Lester casts the two protagonists as adolescents coming of age through the trials and ultimate triumph of their love. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Michele Winship
Lester again proves his versatility as a writer with a fresh and funny take on classical mythology in his new novel. His Cupid is no sweet-faced cherub but a grown man known for mischief through his well-aimed arrows with potioned tips that can turn even the most powerful of gods on Olympus into puppy-eyed schoolboys. Unfortunately he falls victim to his own prank and finds himself in complete and utter love with Psyche, the beautiful mortal who has summoned the wrath of Venus through no fault of her own. Venus just happens to be Cupid's mother, so he walks a treacherous tightrope between Venus's desire for revenge and his own desire for Psyche. At this point, Cupid must decide whether to cut the apron strings or stay a momma's boy. Lester peppers his story with a huge cast of lesser gods that he found while researching Greek and Roman mythology for Cupid stories. In addition, Lester himself becomes a character as narrator, sharing the wisdom he has gained over many decades of love, marriage, and divorce in a voice that is at times the helpful elder and at others the front-porch storyteller. Readers of the classic tales will find the familiar elements all here-the tests, the journey, trickery, divine intervention, and the groupings of three-but they will delight in the contemporary updates and Lester's witty commentary throughout.
KLIATT - Janis Flint-Ferguson
This retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth is told by a witty, wordy and knowledgeable storyteller. As the storyteller meanders among the gods and goddesses of Olympus, the reader is given insight and interpretation in humorous and contemporary allusions. We are introduced to many of the myths surrounding Venus, Apollo, and Cupid, as well as a number of lesser gods and goddesses. Readers will recognize references to Homer and are given a different look at some of Homer's referenced immortals. The tone and style of the novel will appeal to modern readers, but the plot is true to Greek mythology. Cupid is the quintessential adolescent, disobeying his mother and struggling to become an adult. Psyche, too, grows from being the adored child to the suspicious lover on her way to becoming a faithful wife. The story itself is described as a character keeping the storyteller on track as he interacts with the reader to make sure that it all makes sense. By the end of the tale, the storyteller reminds us that these are indeed experiences each one of us has as we move from childhood into adulthood. This is certainly a terrific novel to include in the study of mythology, but it is enjoyable in its own right as a look at human nature and how we fall in love.
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up
Psyche is a princess who is so lovely that people come to worship her instead of Venus, the goddess of love. When Venus hears that she has been usurped, she sends her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with one of his love-tipped arrows. However, once Cupid sees Psyche, he falls hopelessly in love. Not long after their clandestine marriage, Psyche's jealous sisters come to visit and plant a seed of doubt about her husband's identity, and the new bride's actions drive Cupid away. Her chance to redeem herself comes when Venus gives her a series of impossible tasks that she must complete to prove her love. As this tale begins, the style is humorous and promises a new and clever version of the myth, but the comedy peters out about halfway through. Although Lester explores the motivations and personalities of the players and introduces a few new gods and goddesses, the characters fall flat, and the final product is unimaginative. This retelling is interspersed with a self-conscious contemporary narrative that would work better as part of an orally told story. The novel does not hold up to Lester's masterful standard. It might be a good introduction for someone unfamiliar with the traditional myth and could be useful in a classroom, but those looking for an innovative retelling should look at Francesca Lia Block's Psyche in a Dress (HarperCollins, 2006) instead.
—Heather M. CampbellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
This novelization of Cupid and Psyche has too little flavor and too much ego. The original plot is mostly intact: Psyche's unearthly beauty entrances mortals and gods; Venus gets jealous; Cupid falls in love and so forth. An unseen narrator uses his own multiple marriages to claim authority about love and gender. He pontificates about "two things no woman can resist" and marriage being "different for women" because "[n]o matter how much a woman loves the man she is going to marry, a part of her is terrified." In contrast, men are lustful and can "not withstand a woman's tears." Lester's usual lovely gusto does appear occasionally: Gods feast on "ray-of-sunset soup" and "filet of dawn," and the narrator personifies "the story" as a character "jumping up and down on my foot and pulling on my shirt." However, such colorful tidbits pale next to thin characterizations and banal psychology. Useful for analyzing the original tale's moral sketchiness, but a sluggish read. (author's note) (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547607450
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
01/01/2007
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
669,327
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Introducing Psyche

A long time ago, when Time was still winding its watch and Sun was trying to figure out which way was east and which was west, there was a king and queen. I don’t know what country they were king and queen of. That information was not in the story when it came down to me. Sometimes, stories don’t understand; what may not be important to them is very important to us.
   Now, I’m sure there are people who can tell this particular story without having a name for the kingdom this king and queen ruled. Jupiter bless them. I guess I’m not that good of a storyteller, because I need a name for the kingdom. I asked the story if it would mind my giving the place a name. It didn’t see any harm in it, so I am going to call it the Kingdom-by-the-Great-Blue-Sea.
   The story also does not have names for the king and queen. I know they had names, but nobody would say to them, “What’s up, Chuck?” or say, “Looky here, Liz,” if those happened to be their names. I am in agreement with the story this time. If nobody could use their names, there is no need to have them in the story. As for what the king and queen called each other, they were probably like any other married couple and he called her “Honey” and “Sweetheart,” and she called him “Good Lips” and things like that, which we don’t need to pursue any further.
   The king and queen had three daughters. I know what you are thinking: the daughters didn’t have names, either. That is partly true. Two of the girls were name-naked. I’m not even into the story yet and already we have four people that the Internal Revenue Service could not send a letter to.
   Well, the daughters need names. The story is content to call them the “elder sister” and the “younger sister.” That is not good enough for me. The two sisters have to have names. I was thinking about having a contest to pick their names, but the story would probably get tired of waiting for all the votes to be counted, catch a bus, and go to somebody else to get told and that person would not tell the story the way it should be told, which is how I am going to tell it. So, I’ll name them myself. I’ll call one Thomasina, after a girl I had a lot of lust for in high school who wasn’t lusting after me (bet she’s sorry now), and I’ll call the other one Calla. I have no idea if there is such a name, but it sounds like it belongs in the story.
   Thomasina and Calla were the two older girls and they were very beautiful. Both had long, pale yellow hair that came down to their waists. They would get up early every morning and sit in chairs on the balcony outside their room, and two serving girls would brush the morning sunlight into their hair. They would have been the most beautiful young women in the land if not for someone else—their younger sister.
   Her name was Psyche, which is pronounced sigh-key, and it means “soul.” It also means “butterfly.” Maybe that’s what the soul is like—fragile, colorful, and beautiful like a butterfly, and maybe Psyche was so beautiful because people could see her soul in her face.
   I tried to write something that would give you an idea of how beautiful she was, but the letters of the alphabet got so confused and jumbled up trying to arrange themselves into words to describe someone for whom there were no words, they ended up crying in frustration. I hate trying to make words out of letters that have been crying and are so wet they can’t stay on the page. Later on in the story, after the letters dry off, I’ll try again to arrange them into enough words so you’ll have some idea of what Psyche looked like. For now, you’ll just have to believe me when I say she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
   The people of the kingdom said Psyche had to be a goddess because she was even more beautiful than Venus, the goddess of love, who until now had been the most beautiful woman in creation.
   The news of Psyche’s beauty spread all over the world. Soon, people came to see Psyche from everywhere—Rome, Rumania; Lagos, Latvia; Moscow, Mississippi; Green Bay, Ghana; Paris, Poland; and Zurich, Zimbabwe.
   Every day around the time people’s shadows snuck beneath their feet to get out of the sun, the tall wooden doors to the palace grounds swung open, and Psyche came out to take her daily walk. Men, women, children, and all the creatures stopped what they were doing to look at her. Birds flying by would see Psyche, stop flapping their wings, and fall to the ground. Ants would be toting crumbs which, to them, were as big as China. They could not see anything of Psyche except a sixteenth of an inch of her big toenail, but that was enough for them to be so overcome by her beauty that they dropped their crumbs and just stared.
   Psyche walked along the road that led from the palace to the outskirts of the largest village, which wasn’t far, and then she walked back and the palace doors would close behind her. But, for the rest of the day, not much got done in the kingdom because everybody and every creature was thinking about Psyche. Cows didn’t make milk; sheep didn’t grow wool; hens forgot to lay eggs. The butcher didn’t slaughter animals; the baker’s bread and cakes burned in the oven; and the candlestick-maker was in too much of a daze to dip his wicks in tallow.
   Well, this was not good for the economy. The economy went into a recession, then a depression, and finally, went into a cul-de-sac, which is different from a paper sack and a gunnysack and a sad sack as well as a sack on the quarterback.
   The king had to do something or the economy was going to collapse. He thought the matter over and decided that if Psyche went for a walk only one afternoon each month, the economy would be all right.
   “I don’t appreciate your deciding what I can do and when I can do it,” Psyche told her father.
   “The economy is more important than your happiness,” the king replied.
   That tells you right there what kind of king he was! Who in his right mind would make the economy more important than a person’s well-being? But he was the king, and what he said was the way things had to be. He must have been asleep the day in kinging school when the teacher talked about the law of supply and demand. When the supply of something diminishes and the demand for it goes up, it is going to cost more. The king was about to pay a very high price, because the demand to see Psyche was about to destroy the kingdom. The birds and the insects carried word of the king’s decree to the farthest ends of the four directions, which happened to be ten thousand miles on the other side of next week. Everybody and everything went into a panic because nobody knew anymore what day or time Psyche would take her walk. There was only one way anybody could be sure of seeing her. People in other kingdoms started calling in sick to work. I know they didn’t have telephones back in those days. When I say they called in sick, I mean they stuck their heads out the door of their houses and yelled, “I got the flu in my eyetooth and can’t come to work!” Then they moved to the Kingdom-by-the-Great-Blue-Sea so they could be there whenever Psyche took her walk.
   Before long the kingdom was overrun with all kinds of people who did not speak the language, did not know the customs, and, furthermore, did not care. All they wanted was to see Psyche. So many people moved to the kingdom, a lot of stress was put on the infrastructure, which is another way of saying that there weren’t enough bathrooms and toilet paper for everybody. The king solved that problem in a hurry, though exactly how is not in the story. But I can tell you this much: Shondie the shovel-maker and Tyrone the toilet-paper-maker became very wealthy men in a short period of time.
   But, even after the infrastructure got its infra restructured, the king and queen still had a problem. And that was Psyche.

Copyright © 2007 by Julius Lester
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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