Unlike Ovid, Mason seems less interested in merely recounting stories than in getting inside the heads of the mythological figures themselves. Hence, the chief power, mystery, and resonance of many of these tales comes from their first-person perspective ... We witness the transformation of Arachne into a spider, a familiar story which, in Mason’s hands, becomes something fresh and exciting ... The freshness of Mason’s fictions comes from the jubilant disregard they have for the nuts and bolts of the myths themselves ... Many of the stories in Metamorphica seem just as much a tribute to these twentieth-century storytellers as they do to Ovid ... while we will never sound the death knell of Ovid’s masterpiece, we do have, in Mason’s work, a bold new creature and a brilliant feat of literary imagination.
Like the ancient texts he is inspired by, Mason humanizes each figure, whether godly or mortal ... some familiarity with these myths is helpful, particularly in order to appreciate his changes. A fractured, multilayered text reminiscent of Alan Lightman’s classic Einstein’s Dreams (1992) and similar to Madeline Miller’s similarly themed Song of Achilles (2012), Mason’s novel is written in beautiful prose that almost reads like blank verse. Mason once again displays his ability to transform classical creations into a tale that is distinctly his own.
The title of his new work, Metamorphica, nods to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Ovid bookends the collection ... Mason’s central theme: Where we may expect to find meaning, there is none. The lesson can feel profound or sophomoric, depending on how much patience you have for this kind of thing ... Mason takes the memorable female characters of classical myth—goddesses, prophets, rape victims, noble heroines, killers of family members, witches, Amazons, adulteresses and athletes—and turns them into ciphers ... he also reduces female agency to more or less nothing ... Mason’s male characters live almost equally meaningless lives ... Zeus is a serial rapist, and Mason provides disturbingly lyrical descriptions of his abusive pleasure ... The Greek myths, in Mason’s hands, are...a vast set of items to collect and catalog, offering glimpses of a pattern, and a bleakly comforting escape from the world of feelings and human beings.
Using constellations as a framing device, Mason writes each account as its own self-contained myth, but in aggregation the stories form imaginary lines that constitute a pattern ... Classicists and readers familiar with the Metamorphoses will luxuriate in Mason's imagination and beautiful language, while those unfamiliar with Mason or Ovid might find this novel of narrative fragments an unreadable work of experimental literary conceit.
...misses the mark more than it hits it. Essentially, these retellings envision a dour reading of Ovid’s work ... I found that many of the stories read like fragments or shards, and didn’t really go anywhere. I thus found the longer stories to generally have more meat to them, though they, too, tend to drone on and on ... What’s particularly baffling is the inclusion of star charts at the beginning of each section. The book doesn’t do an adequate job of explaining what these constellations had to do with each other or the book as a whole ... Basically, Metamorphica is an interesting and curious piece of writing, but will probably speak to only a very select amount of people.
Mason...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 ... Mason rejects the characters’ traditional transformations into trees to show deeper rewards and punishments ... It’s heavy but never plodding; readers familiar with Greek mythology will appreciate Mason’s mournful riffs highlighting the darker recesses of mythology.