Tales of a Spiritual Sun
by Paul Kiritsis
Olympia Publishers

"What idiocy had possessed him to suggest meddling with something that had terrified him out of his wits."

This collection of short stories takes the risk of exploring Greek myths undergirding the collective unconscious. Inspired by Narcissus, Cupid, and the Fates, among others, the stories show the myths’ themes—self-love, passion, and jealousy, to name a few—as they replay across time and space. Some stories refer to the Greek characters directly, while others connect with the myths more obliquely. But all throw a spin on the ancient tales, using them to ask the brazen question of contemporary readers of how far society has come from the times when these gods ruled the world.

The stories fall into three main categories. “To Propitiate the Earth,” “Phantasia,” and “Mind Games” deal with the roles of imagination and belief in factual reality. “The Therapist,” “Animating The Statue,” “Eros and Psyche,” “The Magic Room,” and “Entrapment” show skeptics and spirits in conflict. “Fate Came in Three,” “A Golden Moment,” “Encounter with a Minotaur,” “Entrapment,” and “Nymphomania” show the dangers of spiritual power. As rich, and as scientifically and psychologically savvy as the world has become, the unknown, or spirit world, as represented by mythical characters, still presents challenges worth facing.

Most stories formulate around a central dialogue in which both sides of the argument (about imagination’s role in reality, in which skeptics and spiritualists fight, and fights between gods and man) are given equal treatment. “Entrapment” stands out for the two sides switching in an unexpected and entertaining twist at the end. A kidnapped monastic defends her monastery's leader, from whom her captor claims he's rescuing her. This story shows the intricacies the tales exploit, where accepted truths become lies, and the unexpected, the unimaginable becomes the most real and most captivating. The in-depth arguments between characters—the stories’ “meat”—provide multiple perspectives that a wide audience can get behind.

The settings could be anywhere—unnamed places but whose descriptions support the characters’ actions. In a cave, a magic room, a basement lab, or a living room, characters meet their equals, testing intellectual and physical limits together. Heady concepts, such as cosmology, time, and genetics, are made understandable in dense yet followable plotlines played out by everyday, thoughtful men and women (and beasts) with distinct voices and traits. Graphic sex scenes add flair and animation. The gods' power is made convincing by passionate force in which the line between the brutal and erotic blurs. Men, women, and beasts exhibit urges to which almost everyone can relate. Some readers may not receive or follow the stories’ esoteric voyages into spectral prisms, cosmic goop, and energy fields (as in “To Propitiate the Earth”), but the variety among the tales offers something for everyone. However, the page layout tends to frustrate, with too few words on a page and lots of room at the bottom.

Kiritsis, a clinical psychologist by trade, says in his introduction that the myths are a thermometer measuring progress on the evolutionary scale of human development in terms of self-reflection, as individuals and as a whole. This description provides a gauge for the stories’ effectiveness, too. The statue in “Animating the Statue” argues with her creator that he has only perfected a skin-deep copy and that he will never succeed in besting nature itself. Kiritsis does not purport to re-create or mimic the myths. Rather, with unpredictable endings when modern people come in contact with reimagined bodies for ancient gods, his creations demonstrate the myths enduring import and appeal as mirrors held to society in exciting and provocative midrash.

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