Beyond the patricide and even the incest, the horror of the Oedipus myth lies in its insistence that our fates are not ours to change. And yet the story itself is far from unalterable, having been handed down in multiple variants — something that Natalie Haynes knows very well as a classics scholar. Now Haynes has written her own version of the tragedy, finding new space in the narrative by looking at it through the eyes of two characters neglected by antiquity: Oedipus’s mother/bride Jocasta and their youngest daughter Ismene.
This slight book comes with heavy baggage. In 2009, Rampling handed back a hefty advance for her contribution to a conventional authorised biography, and then used the Human Rights Act to prevent Barbara Victor from publishing anything based on their collaboration, on the grounds that it would violate her right to privacy. The Mail typically demanded to know ‘what can possibly remain untold in her audaciously open life’. What it meant was that, having been so extensively naked on-screen,
Rampling had no business pulling down the shutters on her private life.
Brilliance is intoxicating, and from the first chapter, Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others goes straight to the head. Things start like this: with an article on a website called ‘Women and Film’, by someone called Meadow Mori. Meadow reveals that when she was fresh from her LA high school, she had an affair with a mountain-sized filmmaker, who ‘sounds like the voice of America’, and whose career was marked by genius and frustration. It is, of course, Orson Welles; but there’s more here than scrupulous cinematic referentiality.
Is Meadow’s relationship with the F is for Fake filmmaker a truth or an untruth? And if it’s an untruth, does that make it a lie? A lie of invention, a lie about yourself, should not be called a lie, she says in the essay. Perhaps it is a kind of wish-story. This is a serious matter for Meadow, who has made her name as a documentary- maker — a kind of female Errol Morris, blending recreations with interviews in ways that fracture truth-telling but also establish irrevocable narratives about her subjects.
There were no women athletes in the first modern Olympic games. The next time around, in the 1900 Paris games, out of 997 athletes there were 22 women, who competed in just five acceptably ladylike sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf. Over a century later, the introduction of women’s boxing meant that the 2012 Olympics were the first to feature women competing in all sports. But that moment of parity has been followed almost immediately by a drastic challenge to the very definition of women’s sport, as the International Olympic Committee brought out new rules last November on the inclusion of trans athletes.