Thursday, October 29, 2009


I'm so pleased to be taking part in the International Festival of Authors in Toronto. I have two readings to go: one at noon on Saturday with Ian Weir, Meaghan Strimas, and Nikos Papandreou; and then at 8:00PM is the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist reading with Anne Michaels, Linden MacIntyre, Kim Echlin, and Colin McAdam.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hippocratic @#$%&*

Aristotle's father, Nicomachus, was physician to Amyntas, king of Macedon in Aristotle's youth, father of Philip, grandfather of Alexander the Great. Nicomachus practiced a generation or so after Hippocrates, one of the fathers of medicine, and I imagine he must have absorbed some of the radical teachings associated with him, such as the avoidance of superstition and the keeping of detailed case notes. I also imagine that Aristotle must have acquired a good bit of his father's medical knowledge; he certainly had a lifelong interest in biology, and his books reveal snippets of the expertise he must have acquired at his father's knee (see, for instance, his discussion of black bile in relation to melancholy in the Problems).

Here's a modern translation of the Hippocratic Oath (thanks, Wikipedia!):

I swear by Apollo the Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods, and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfil according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art–if they desire to learn it–without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken the oath according to medical law, but to no one else.

I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.

I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.

I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.

Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.

What I may see or hear in the course of treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

CJAD Interview

I'll be speaking with Anne Dowson on her radio show Saturday in Montreal on CJAD 800AM tomorrow at 2:30PM EST. Listen up, all you Montrealais!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Governor General's Literary Awards

"Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean is a wise and subtle journey into the Court of Philip of Macedon, the mind of Aristotle and his complex relationship with his pupil, Alexander the Great. In this glorious balancing act of a book, Aristotle emerges as a man both brilliant and blind, immersed in life but terrified of living."

The Golden Mean has made the shortlist for the 2009 Governor General's Literary Awards! To see the full list, please click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Westminster News Leader Interview

"While writing her first fiction novel, The Golden Mean, New Westminster author Annabel Lyon joked with her publisher at Random House that she should have made the main characters vampires if she really wanted to sell lots of books."

To read the full interview with the New Westminster News Leader, please click here.

Friday, October 9, 2009


You can hear my interview with Sheryl MacKay on CBC Radio One's North by Northwest on Saturday, October 10th from 8:20AM to 9:00AM. To listen to a podcast of a longer version of our chat, including a reading, please click here. Happy listening!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Giller jury picks tantalizingly varied list of finalists"

"The Golden Mean: One of the most celebrated first novels published in Canada in the past year, Annabel Lyon's book is hardly the stuff of the ordinary. Narrated by no less a voice than Artistotle's, the book blends, philosophy, history, speculation and cleanly crafted prose into an account of the great Greek thinker's reluctant tutelage of the young – but already formidable – Alexander the Great. On ambition alone, this one sticks out."

To read Geoff Pevere's full article for the Toronto Star, please click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giller Shortlist!

The Golden Mean has made the Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist! To see the full list of nominees, please click here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Boy on the Cover

I get asked a lot about The Golden Mean's cover: what is with the naked guy on the horse? I can guess what my publisher was thinking (along the lines of "made you look!"), and certainly I love its Hellenic resonances - eros and thanatos and all that lovely marble statuary - but it does relate very directly to one character in particular in the novel.

Alexander had an older half-brother named Arrhidaeus. The Roman historian Plutarch, who wrote a canonical early biography of Alexander, claims Arrhidaeus became an "idiot" following a childhood illness, or perhaps poisoning. In my novel, he's suffered brain damage as a result of meningitis (though the ancient Greeks, of course, had neither of those terms).

His affliction didn't seem to make him any less of a threat to Alexander, who freaked out (another term the Greeks probably didn't have) when their father arranged a politically convenient marriage for Arrhidaeus to the daughter of the satrap of Caria. Thinking Philip was positioning Arrhidaeus for the throne, Alexander sent an intermediary to the satrap, offering himself in his brother's stead. When Philip found out, he had the intermediary (a popular tragic actor named Thettalus) paraded through the streets in chains, and banished most of Alexander's closest friends. The offer of marriage, obviously, was withdrawn.

Arrhidaeus did eventually become king, after Alexander's death, and ruled with what we can only assume was enormous assistance from the general Antipater.

In the novel, I imagine Aristotle tutoring both princes: Alexander out of duty, Arrhidaeus out of scientific curiousity. In an early scene, the philosopher discovers Arrhidaeus loves horses and decides to teach him to ride. Once mounted, Aristotle wants the boy to sit up straight.

"'No, no,' a groom who's been watching them says. 'Now you hug him,' and leans forward with his arms around an imaginary mount. Arrhidaeus collapses eagerly onto the horse's back and hugs him hard."

Canadian Press Interview

"The sensual story of Greek philosopher Aristotle and his tutelage of a young Alexander the Great has made the long list for the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize and is a finalist for the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.

It's the only book to make both races this year, and the competition is stiff: The Giller long list, which will be narrowed to a short list on Tuesday, includes Margaret Atwood, and the Writers' Trust list of finalists includes Alice Munro."

To read the full interview with Victoria Ahearn for the Canadian Press, please click here.