Book Review: The Seduction of Sir Gawain by Arthur Wayne Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka

Wayne Glowka was one of my English professors at Georgia College. He taught me the History of the English Language and Arthurian Literature and other sundry classes. He loves to tell the story of me walking into class one morning several minutes late with bits of limb and leaf in my hair. He remarked, “You look like you slept in a bush.” I said, “I did.”

Oh, college … how I miss you.

I also worked for Wayne as an intern for the Faculty Research Newsletter.

Over the years we kept in touch, and I’ve always valued this friendship very much. When I worked for the Macon Telegraph and found myself on the GC&SU campus I frequently stopped by his office to say hello.

A couple of years ago Wayne published “The Texiad,” a truly inspired epic poem of the Texas Revolution.

Wayne grew up “in the shadow of the Alamo” and so he grew up with this history. His use of William Zuber as his narrator in “The Texiad” may be one of my favorite things in all of English literature.

He was also my inspiration to self-publish Jackson Speed. Wayne published “The Texiad” about a month before I started writing the first Speed novel. I had no idea what I was going to do with Jackson Speed and his memoirs, but after picking Wayne’s brain a little I decided to self publish through Create Space.

In addition to being a fan of the Texas Revolution, Wayne is also an Arthurian literature scholar, and he’s written a couple of Arthurian romances.

I finally got around to reviewing “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” a week or so ago. I posted the review at Amazon, but I thought I would also post it here.

I am going to say this: Reviewing books written by your former English professor is an intimidating challenge, but especially when he’s the guy who taught you Arthurian literature and the book falls into the category.

Trying to remember after 20 years Spenser and Malory and the Pearl Poet and all their themes and symbolism is difficult enough, but when you throw in the fact that as often as not I was sleeping in the shrubbery prior to class, I can tell you that writing this review was plenty taxing on my old brain.

But all kidding aside, this is a gem of a book. It’s really very funny to see a Knight of the Round Table cast through a modern prism.

Here’s my review:

Glowka’s Gawain: A charming retelling of an old tale

A Cougar Romance

A Cougar Romance

If you agree that “Spenser writ no language” and find Malory’s English archaic and smiting, then surely you must appreciate Arthur Glowka’s retelling of the Arthurian legend of Gawain and the Green Knight.

In “The Seduction of Sir Gawain,” Glowka brings the traditional tale (with a couple of variations) into the modern era with a lovely prose interspersed with subtle humor.

Glowka’s Gawain story exposes the notions of chivalry and virtue to be a little naïve by today’s cynical standards and pokes some fun at the hero’s childlike beliefs. Glowka’s Gawain also falls well short of his own ethical code – falling much shorter than the Gawain of the 14th Century poem credited to the “Pearl Poet.” Nevertheless, in “The Seduction of Sir Gawain,” the Arthurian knight is able to keep his vows intact despite his failings, and in the end is rewarded – in a way – for his virtues.

As in the original Gawain, Glowka’s hero takes the Christmas challenge of the Green Knight at Camelot. The giant Green Knight offers to receive a blow from his own ax if the knight who swings the blade is willing to seek out the Green Knight at the Green Chapel and in a year receive a blow from the Green Knight. Gawain chops off the Green Knight’s head, and the magical creature then picks up his head, reminds Gawain that he must come and find him in a year and rides away.

Gawain leaves Camelot in the autumn to seek out the Green Knight, though he does not know where the Green Chapel is. On Christmas Eve he comes to a castle where he is welcomed and entertained by the Lord Bertilak and Lady Ragnelle. Gawain learns that he is just a morning’s ride from the Green Chapel and so accepts the hospitality of the lord and lady. Gawain also participates in the lord’s games while staying at the castle.

Those familiar with the original tale will know that Glowka’s Gawain goes a good bit farther in besmirching his chivalric honor than the Pearl Poet’s Gawayne. However Glowka’s imagining of the tale is consistent with the traditional Arthurian temptation fables in that the hero’s shortcomings are exposed, penance is made and all turns right in the end.

Even though his hero falls short, Gawain is able through “fairy law” to reclaim his honor. Glowka’s Gawain is left with more than a green sash to wear as a penance for his lack of virtue, but he is also rewarded – of a fashion – for his willingness to make amends.

And though Glowka’s “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” clearly keeps the tradition of the Arthurian temptation fable, it might also fall into the category of a more modern genre, let’s call it the “Cougar Romance.” Surely neither Spenser nor Mallory ever envisaged such a thing.

So much of the Arthurian legend was written in a time when English looked like a foreign language to the modern reader, and those who seek the traditional tales may find themselves disappointed as they attempt to plod through the alliterative, Middle English poems or 15th Century prose of a prisoner. But Glowka makes the traditional tale of Sir Gawain accessible to any reader with a wonderfully charming prose.

Whether you are an Arthurian scholar seeking a retelling of an old tale or are just looking for a good story about one of the Knights of the Round Table, surely you will agree that “The Seduction of Sir Gawain” is a tremendous find.

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