The Classical Novels -- The Macedonian and Scenes from the Life of Cleopatra (cloth)
  • Author: Butts, Mary
  • Binding: Clothbound MJ
  • Pages: 385
  • Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/2"
  • Pub. Year: 1994
  • ISBN: 0-929701-43-7
  • In Stock: Yes
Price: $22.00

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Preface by Thomas McEvilley.

Mary Butts had a keen interest in classical history, and an imagination particularly suited to understanding the personalities of visionary rulers. These two historical novels, published in England in her lifetime to considerable acclaim, are surprisingly well-suited for publication in one volume: the segue from Alexander the Great's death and legacy is readily made to the rise 250 years later of a strong, intelligent, and capable Queen in Alexandria. Each novel is thoroughly researched and richly imagined; Butts' style is fluid, the writing is crisp and colloquial, and the scenes she composes are dramatic. These are historical novels unlike all but a few others; Butts' purpose is to go so far beneath the conventional understanding of Greek and Roman history as to retrieve specific meaning relevant to the contemporary social and political arenas. She realized, for example, how distorted and sexually compromised the figure of Cleopatra had become in the hands of male historians and dramatists (only Shakespeare is partly exempted); and so with fierce dedication Butts sought to retrieve the truth and dignity of her life (a very telling essay is appended to Scenes). In addition to two complete novels, this third volume of Mary Butts' work includes three related short stories: "The Later Life of Theseus, King of Athens," "Bellerophon to Anteia," and "A Roman Speaks."

"No modernist writer has explored with such accuracy the nacreous qualities of female aggression and power and the words for it all -- aggression between the sexes, yes of course, but, more interestingly and startingly, the schematics and schisms between mothers, daughters, and daughters-in-law, between girlfriend and girlfriend, and between girlfriends playing mother and daughter, playing sisters and more than sisters."
-- Voice Literary Supplement

She drank with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots; Virgil Thompson courted her; among her best friends she counted H.D. and Bryher and corresponded at length with Charles Williams, but Virginia Woolf hated her perfume. She lived more outrageously than Jean Rhys and was considered a better writer than Katherine Mansfield...

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