Books: In the Minotaur's Cave

THE KING MUST DIE (338 pp.)—Mary Renault—Pantheon ($4.50).

The best excuse for retelling a myth is to be unfaithful to it. When Joyce reworked the Odyssey, turning Ulysses into the Jew Leopold Bloom and the wine-dark sea into Dublin, the structure came from the past but the sense of it was all in the present—which is the essence of parable. To re-create the past as past is merely archaeology or entertainment, or both. Author Mary (The Last of the Wine) Renault's The King Must Die (a midsummer Book-of-the-Month Club choice) is both, but she is a better literary archaeologist than an entertainer....

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