PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Books

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking by Aoibheann Sweeney

Jonathan Trumbull
The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)

Modeled on Book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses, Among Other Things... is a fresh, intriguing perspective on coming of age.


Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking

Publisher: Penguin
ISBN: 1594201307
Author: Aoibheann Sweeney
Price: $23.95
Length: 208
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2007-07
Amazon

Ovid's Metamorphoses is a collection of tales about discovery and transformation, which, as main character Miranda relates in Aoibheann (pronounced Ee-van) Sweeney's novel Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking, "rarely ended happily; the process of transformation of hands turning into claws and feathers sprouting on shoulders was sometimes a punishment, and sometimes a reprieve." Take the story of Narcissus, the beautiful water spirit who metamorphosed into a flower after falling in love with his own reflection, or Galatea, the statue-turned-human with whom Pygmalion, her sculptor, fell in love.

As Miranda Donnal's father holes his family up on remote Crab Island off the coast of Maine to finish his own translation of Metamorphoses, Miranda is submerged in a world of fabled characters. After her mother disappears while boating and her father becomes increasingly remote, Miranda must find comfort in the world of myths and imagination that she creates for herself -- and later, by shaping her own transformation when she accepts a job as a typist at a classical library her father helped establish in Manhattan.

Not until she reaches New York does Miranda realize that her sheltered lifestyle on Crab Island kept her from discovering her own identity. Life in Greenwich Village brings Miranda's complicated emotions to the surface as she assesses her own sexual individuality and rediscovers her love for her father, which had long since been subdued by his solitary ambiguity.

Sweeney models her novel on Book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses, dividing it into three parts: the age of silver, when humankind begins to establish itself as the dominant race; the age of bronze, when men take up arms and war is waged; and the age of iron, when jealousy and other vices begin to take hold of man's mind. Sweeney pairs the physical isolation of Crab Island with the psychological isolation of Manhattan, where, although surrounded by millions of people, Miranda is unable to emotionally establish herself.

Sweeney displays a crisp style that casts into sharp relief the complicated array of emotions running through Miranda's head and heart as she leaves her coastal home behind:

Ahead of the ferry, heavy and milky green in the sunlight, was the Statue of Liberty, the water like a carpet at her feet. The sight and smell of the sea almost hurt, it was so close and familiar, like the delicious smell of sheets when you are too tired to sleep; it was already September and I could picture the bay in front of our house, the islands just beginning to color, rafts of eiders by the shore, eagles and ospreys on the hunt, readying to leave for warmer coasts.

Uncertainty and reluctance are ever-present in Among Other Things as Miranda must sort through relationships, her discovery of love, and her obscure family history. Befriended by both a local socialite and a street-corner coffee vendor, Miranda -- whose name in Latin means "to be admired" -- must discover who she can trust and who she must avoid.

Miranda's transformation from sheltered islander to forlorn city girl wouldn't seem so out of place in the classical poem that her father has committed his life to translating. The parallels between Miranda's makeover and Ovid's transformations are anything but vague. At one point, Miranda even believes she can sense the presence of the gods that were "always soaring from one place to another, spying on nymphs from above."

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking is a fresh, intriguing perspective on coming of age. Sweeney's wandering, convoluted episodes are well matched to the wandering and convoluted story of a girl's life. Sometimes monotonous but always focused, Among Other Things is not only intriguing, but likely to entice anyone into what lured Miranda and her father onto Crab Island -- "Ovid's spell."

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.