In Thomas Berger's small-town Yankee version of Greek myth, Augie Mencken (Agamemnon) doesn't go off to fight at Troy; he pretends to join the Army in World War II but actually works at a defense plant in another state and sends home money with faked reports of his heroism in battle.
Augie's wife, Esther (Clytemnestra), openly consorts with his slum-lord cousin E.G. (Aegisthus). His son, Orrie (Orestes), is a freshman in college. His older daughter, Gena (Iphigenia), has run away to Hollywood. His younger daughter, Ellie (Electra), is a skinny kid whose eyeglasses are held together with adhesive tape. The chorus consists of the regulars down at the Idle Hour Bar & Grill.
The plot, though, is the same. Augie returns home to be murdered in his bath by his wife and his wife's lover. Egged on by the vengeful Ellie, Orrie kills them both with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Berger, author of "Little Big Man" and the Reinhart novels, doesn't shuttle back and forth between the mythical and the mundane, as John Updike did in "The Centaur." Except for the names, in fact, he leaves no evidence of his literary borrowing. So what is he up to, besides making use of a time-tested story?