Harvard Book Store and GrubStreet welcome NINA MACLAUGHLIN—the acclaimed local author of the memoir Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter—for a discussion of her highly anticipated fiction debut, Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung.
I am the home of this story. After thousands of years of other people’s tellings, of all these different bridges, of words gotten wrong, I’ll tell it myself.
Seductresses and she-monsters, nymphs and demi-goddesses, populate the famous myths of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. But what happens when the story of the chase comes in the voice of the woman fleeing her rape? When the beloved coolly returns the seducer’s gaze? When tales of monstrous transfiguration are sung by those transformed? In voices both mythic and modern, Wake, Siren revisits each account of love, loss, rape, revenge, and change. It lays bare the violence that undergirds and lurks in the heart of Ovid’s narratives, stories that helped build and perpetuate the distorted portrayal of women across centuries of art and literature.
Drawing on the rhythms of epic poetry and alt rock, of everyday speech and folk song, of fireside whisperings and therapy sessions, Nina MacLaughlin recovers what is lost when the stories of women are told and translated by men. She breathes new life into these fraught and well-loved myths.
“Nina MacLaughlin has done something audacious. She has invited the female characters in Ovid―daughter, mother, sister, wife, widow, queen, nymph, maenad, monster, even the blind seer Tiresias―to sing through her, and now we know how it feels to be stalked by Polyphemus, to be raped by Neptune, to be pregnant with Hercules, to be transformed into a reed, a cow, a fountain, a spider, a constellation. Wake, Siren is a stunning and sustained performance, in language bold and lyrical, direct yet sensual, and loaded with natural beauty.” ―Mary Norris, author of Greek to Me
“Provocative reinterpretations of some very old stories . . . MacLaughlin succeeds in making [them] fresh and distinct by allowing her protagonists to speak in their own voices. This creates stylistic variety across stories, but it also makes a powerful point . . . Some of these stories have distinctly modern touches―Galatea faints at a 7-Eleven because she’s been on a fasting cleanse―but these moments only reinforce a sense of timelessness. There have always been men who will not hear when women speak. Vital, vivid, and angry.” ―Kirkus, starred review
“Wake, Siren is by turns sensual and searing, a gorgeous book that completely enthralls its readers. Each page is a revelation, and their combined effect is a stunning and welcomed new perspective on Ovid’s myths. Nina MacLaughlin’s vision approaches clairvoyance and her voice is powerful, provocative, and, at this moment in history, undeniably necessary.” ―Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.