A brilliant and daring novel that reimagines Ovid’s Metamorphoses
In the tradition of his bestselling debut novel The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason’s Metamorphica transforms Ovid’s epic poem of endless transformation. It reimagines the stories of Narcissus, Pygmalion and Galatea, Midas and Atalanta, and strings them together like the stars in constellations—even Ovid becomes a story. It’s as though the ancient mythologies had been rewritten by Borges or Calvino; Metamorphica is an archipelago in which to linger for a while; it reflects a little light from the morning of the world.
Mason (Void Star) reworks Greek myths into mostly melancholic fragments in this impressive collection of flash fictions that accentuate the pain, frustrations, and regrets of well-known and unfamiliar myths. Each section centers loosely on a single god, showing the ways they debilitated successive family lines and interconnected figures. Athena's stories float around the edges of The Odyssey, capturing the bleak aftermath of the abandonment of Calypso and revenge of Ajax. The Zeus cycle follows Europa's lineage, including Minos's section a heartbreaking look at his belated anguish for mistreating his friend Daedalus. In the sections for Philemon and Baucis and Daphne, Mason rejects the characters' traditional transformations into trees to show deeper rewards and punishments. The strongest story of the Nemesis portion has a Clytemnestra bursting with her rage at the sacrifice of her daughter. Alcestis's section strips away the romance of a wife willing to die in place of her husband, Admetus. Mason mashes Gilgamesh and Theseus together and makes Atalanta a haughty lesbian. It's heavy but never plodding; readers familiar with Greek mythology will appreciate Mason's mournful riffs highlighting the darker recesses of mythology.