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The Metamorphoses

Posted in book reviews with tags , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by acousticchick

I love Roman mythology for the same reason one of my best friends loves video games: I can’t ride a chariot made of fire in real life, but I can read about it. That said, Ovid doesn’t really have anything to add to the stories I’ve heard before. He doesn’t skimp on the gore and orgies, but all the uncontrollable hormones in the world wouldn’t make ‘The Metamorphoses’ a must-read.

My lamentable attention span probably casts an undeserved shroud on the book. It’s not a bad read, but it isn’t broken up very well. Instead of using chapters, Ovid strung all the stories together with little more than an “and then.” Sometimes I found myself in the middle of a new myth without noticing that the previous one had ended and had to backtrack, which always makes me twitch.

When I did know what was going on, though, I enjoyed Ovid’s writing. ‘The Metamorphoses’ was written as a poem, which is probably why the prose translation I read felt musical and almost feminine. I wasn’t really a fan of the convoluted sentences the translator substituted for verses, though I guess I can’t pick on him until I learn Latin.

As a whole, ‘The Metamorphoses’ is a little tedious, but the individual stories are as entertaining as a reader could want. Whenever mortals and gods wander around pissed-off or lust-ridden (or both), exciting circumstances ensue. And hey, one of the myths inspired a poorly-drawn comic by yours truly.

American parenting as illuminated by Phoebus and Phaethon.