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Incarnation & Metamorphosis

Incarnation & Metamorphosis

David Mason

Regular price $ 15.96 USD
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Incarnation & Metamorphosis: Can Literature Change Us? / 226-page paperback / 5.5" x 8.5" / ISBN 9781589881723 / Publication Date: 3/7/2023

"Witty and heartfelt essays, shaken and stirred."
Kirkus Reviews

"Mason’s sharp interpretations make a persuasive case that great literature’s complexity and ambiguity can, at its best, produce empathy and understanding in readers. Book lovers will find much to ponder.”
—Publishers Weekly

"These essays are by turns expansive, sustaining and astringent, occasionally bromidic yet often incisive. One feels Mason hitting his stride as he enthuses infectiously over Tom Stoppard and Kay Ryan, Seamus Heaney and Sylvia Plath ('a lesson in critical circumspection'), fellow poet-critics Clive James and John Burnside, unfashionable writers such as Joyce Carey and Weldon Kees, and the Australian Helen Garner. He argues convincingly, if counterintuitively, for the outsider status of Dana Gioia, and laments that despite his 'mastery of dramatic voice' and 'comic melancholia,' Michael Donaghy is 'yet to find a major American publisher.'"
—Jaya Savige, Times Literary Supplement

“Literary criticism,” David Mason writes, “ought to entertain as well as illuminate.” In these essays Mason tells stories about embodiment and change, incarnation and metamorphosis, drawing connections between art and life without confusing the two. Mason considers the many kinds of change we encounter in our lives, our desire for justice, and the ways great writers complicate that desire. He discusses the lives and works of Montaigne, Diderot, and Neruda, as well as his colorful father’s fascination with a fictional character. He takes up such contemporary figures as the daring Australian writer Helen Garner, the playwright Tom Stoppard, and the poet-critic Dana Gioia; and he has fresh things to say about the perils of fame in the careers of Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney and mourns the loss of poet Michael Donaghy.

Incarnation & Metamorphosis is a book about living with literature—Mason writes that literature tells "us that we are seen, warts and all. Criticism, such as the essays in this book, is a way of seeing back.”


"David Mason believes in literature as a weather event—even an extreme one. He reads to be changed—drenched, burned, blown away. He has no wish to have his standing position confirmed, and is alert to the ways in which his subjects are changed, both by their writing and its reception. These essays move comfortably from the lines of a Nobel Prize-winning poet to the dwelling of a Greek peasant who could have stepped out of Homer, on to the perils of literary biography. Mason is a reader as much as he is a writer. He looks into the political in order to find the personal—not the other way round. Incarnation & Metamorphosis is engaging all the way through, not least when Mason acts on the assumption, 'The imagination is free.'”
—James Campbell, author of Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin

“Mason reveals a glorious passion for literature, as well as an almost Whitmanesque openness to the ideas and emotions that inspire creative acts at all levels.”
Library Journal (starred review) on Voices, Places

“Poetry criticism doesn’t get any better than this.”
Booklist on The Poetry of Life

"Only a rare poet can merge the reverence of Thoreau with the irreverence of Zorba the Greek to create something wholly unlike anything else . . ."
Maria Popova on Davey McGravy

“Here is a chapter of our lives in cadences that will resonate with anyone who gives them a chance.”
Washington Post Book World on Ludlow

"What a pleasure to read a book of poems by a poet at the height of his powers, a poet whose life has been transformed and whose poems are the embodiment of that transformation."
Jim Moore on Pacific Light

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David Mason grew up in Bellingham, Washington, and has lived in many parts of the world, including Greece and Colorado, where he served as poet laureate for four years. He is the author of eight books of poetry including The Country I Remember, Sea Salt, Davey McGravy (Paul Dry Books, 2015), The Sound, and Ludlow, which won the Colorado Book Award and was featured on the PBS NewsHour. He has also written a memoir and four collections of essays including Voices, Places (Paul Dry Books, 2018). His poetry, prose, and translations have appeared in such periodicals as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, and The Hudson Review. Mason currently lives with his wife Chrissy (poet Cally Conan-Davies) on the Australian island of Tasmania, near the Southern Ocean.

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