Saturday, June 17, 2023

Spin, by Rebecca Caprara

Caprara presents us a retelling of the story of Arachne, the young weaver who challenged the goddess Athena and was transformed into a spider for her hubris.  In this version, Arachne's antipathy towards the gods is born out of a life of economic hardship and social injustice.  The stories of the gods, clearly written to uphold patriarchal norms, hold no value to her.  She doesn't solicit divine intervention, but rather sets out through her own hard work to cultivate her talent.  Her efforts to set forth justice through her work is hindered at every turn by men, by the community, and ultimately by the gods themselves.

Not content to set the record straight on Arachne, Caprara takes apart most of the genre, calling out its misogyny, violence, and perversity with a strong grasp of the material.  Feminist retellings of classical literature have been done before, of course, but rarely as well as they are here.  The book is written in generally excellent verse and this gives the customary gravity but also evokes the epic style itself.  It's not Ovid, but it's a fitting tribute to the way such stories are told.

Caprara's instinct to make calls to action give the novel the taste of a screed (which will mostly be preaching to the choir as it is hard to imagine Ron DeSantis plucking up a copy of this book from his public schools' burn pile).  The writing could never be accused of subtlety!  A lot more could have been done without always connecting every dot.  However, that doubt in the reader's intelligence is a small flaw for this is a beautifully written tribute to Greek mythology and a work of great contemporary relevance.

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