Mnemonics: Background information when reading Ostrich

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Ostrich

A Novel

by Matt Greene

Ostrich
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  • Paperback:
    Aug 2013, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Beyond the Book:
Mnemonics

In Matt Greene's Ostrich, protagonist Alex Graham is obsessed with mnemonic devices. How did mnemonics get their start?

Simonides of Ceos was a Greek poet in the sixth century B.C. As the story goes, he was asked to recite an ode at a nobleman's banquet. Simonides began his speech, as was customary, by thanking the gods – in this case Pollux and Castor, twins who were later transformed into the constellation Gemini. But the nobleman did not appreciate sharing the limelight with the gods. Simonides would get half of his fee, the nobleman said, and if he wanted the rest he could ask the gods themselves to pay him. Shortly afterwards, Simonides was called out of the room. Two men were supposedly at the door to see him. He went to the door but no one was there. While he was away, the banquet room collapsed, killing everyone. So perhaps Simonides had indeed been paid by the gods? That was the end of the story – or not. The bodies of the dead people were so mangled they were ...

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