Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung

Nina MacLaughlin. FSG Originals, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-53858-3
MacLaughlin, whose debut book was the carpentry memoir Hammerhead, heads in a vastly different direction with this collection of myths recast for the #MeToo era. In more than 30 short stories, nymphs and human women are allowed to tell their own stories, many of which depict gods and heroes as more dangerous than the lascivious and mischievous rogues they’ve often been portrayed as. These settings are largely unmoored from traditional chronology, borrowing freely from both classical tropes and contemporary popular culture, and some—such as one where incestuous Myrrha confesses everything to her therapist, or another in which the cyclops Polyphemus is Galatea’s cyberstalker—are inventive in form. There is nevertheless a certain sameness to many of the stories, perhaps unavoidable in such a project, but MacLaughlin largely succeeds in varying the recurrent themes of sexual violence and women’s subsequent rage and inevitable transformations, largely imposed by gods to ensure women’s silence. The emotional heart of the collection arrives when the horrific story of Proche and Philomela is immediately followed by Baucis’s sensually and emotionally satisfying tale of a long, love-filled marriage. In the latter story, the narrator states that “Not all stories are sad,” a much-needed reminder at this point in the collection. MacLaughlin skillfully elevates what could have been merely a writerly exercise, instead composing a chorus of women’s justifiable rage echoing down through the millennia. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 08/22/2019
Release date: 11/19/2019
Genre: Fiction
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