ian mcdowell

Twenty Days of Arthurian Books

The List

Day Eight: Mordred’s Curse by Ian McDowell

What was your favorite scene in this book?  Oh, it’s been a while.  I can’t think of any specific scene, per say.  But I remember that Mordred and Gawain had a really close, brotherly relationship.  It was very much a highlight of this book.

Um, also, there are two really dirty poems in this book that my high school friends and I knew by heart (we were in high school and porn was hilarious).  'Do you want to read a dirty poem’ became something of an inside joke among us when we were very much in need of childish, stupid humor.    

How did you find this book?  I was on college visits in Portland, Oregon and on our last day, my mom and I received a recommendation to go to Powells Bookstore.  AKA, book city.  A used bookstore which takes up a whole city block and is five stories tall.

We spent hours in there.

I was on my third trip through the sci-fi/fantasy section when all of a sudden I felt a great need to turn around.  And when I did, right at eye-level was a book I must have past by several times but only just saw now.  Mordred’s Curse.  It seemed like it was a sign that this book was important.  I didn’t even hesitate in buying it and it’s sequel.

Would you recommend this book?  Why?  No.  It’s poorly written, crude, McDowell drops the f-bomb about every other word and it is focused on sex in a way that I really wished Arthurian retelling weren’t.  It subscribes to the idea that in order for Mordred to be a hero in the story, the other characters need to be brought lower than his level instead of rising him up.  It’s just… not very good and its sequel is even more bizarrely sexual.  

How many times did you read it?  I read it a lot.  I haven’t read it since my freshman year of college, but I read it all the time during a two year period.  For all it’s problems, I over identified with the book’s Mordred.  Arthur was someone he trusted and a figure of authority who turned on him suddenly with no good reason.  My senior year of high school, a teacher who I had trusted turned on me suddenly with no good reason.  There was a bitterness and anger and darkness in that book that I understood so well during that period of my life.  I was spiraling down into something similar.  Books are incredibly powerful and do save people and, for all it’s problems, this one saved me.