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Customer Review

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metamorphoses: Out Loud, Violent and Beautiful, 23 Aug. 2009
This review is from: Tales from Ovid: Twenty-four Passages from the "Metamorphoses" (Paperback)
My wife and I read this slowly, being sure to read the entire book out loud. During our semi-nightly ritual of reading out loud to one another, which mostly involves me reading to Amy, I found myself shivering with the visceral, accurate, and beautiful writing that Hughes engages to re-tell these most famous of stories: Ovid's Metamorphoses.

I was introduced to this book some time back by a dear friend of mine who loved Hughes's translation of the story of Echo and Narcissus and read it while studying Classics. That was indeed one of my favourites in the collection, accompanied too by the stories of Arethusa, of Venus and Adonis (and Atalanta), of Actaeon, of Arachne, and of so many others. My wife also studied classics and we resolved some time ago to purchase the book and read it aloud, which was a fantastic, though extended, experience. Now, I almost cannot imagine these stories read silently.

Hughes represents forcibly Ovid's core theme of metamorphosis: the fact that men and gods are vulnerable to change and flux. Furthermore, Hughes also captures the messages of the stories well in his physical and robust language - you feel Arachne's pride as she takes on Minerva, you internalise the urgent, visceral need that Narcissus feels for himself, you experience the change of body to water as Arethusa tries to evade Alpheus and they both metamorphose. Ovid's original stories contain violence, rape, murder, and vengeance and Hughes's presentation of these acts is vivid and transformative. Again, in the story of Arethusa you cannot help but understand the sense of pursuit, of intent to fulfill passionate ravishment, the urge to penetrate, to touch, to clutch. Reading this book is unlike reading a novel, and unlike reading most contemporary poetry. The stories are long and require concentration, but the translation (itself a metamorphosis, oh how clever) and re-creation are superb. I must recommend this book strongly to those interested in classic literature and 20th century poetry.
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Location: Northampton, MA, USA

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