Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece

Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece

3.5 6
by Patricia Storace
     
 

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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"Full of insights, marvelously entertaining . . . haunting and beautifully written."
--The New York Review of Books

"I lived in Athens, at the intersection of a prostitute and a saint."  So begins Patricia Storace's astonishing memoir of her year in Greece. Mixing affection with detachment

Overview

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"Full of insights, marvelously entertaining . . . haunting and beautifully written."
--The New York Review of Books

"I lived in Athens, at the intersection of a prostitute and a saint."  So begins Patricia Storace's astonishing memoir of her year in Greece. Mixing affection with detachment, rapture with clarity, this American poet perfectly evokes a country delicately balanced between East and West.

Whether she is interpreting Hellenic dream books, pop songs, and soap operas, describing breathtakingly beautiful beaches and archaic villages, or braving the crush at a saint's tomb, Storace, winner of the Whiting Award, rewards the reader with informed and sensual insights into Greece's soul. She sees how the country's pride in its past coexists with profound doubts about its place in the modern world. She discovers a world in which past and present engage in a passionate dialogue. Stylish, funny, and erudite, Dinner with Persephone is travel writing elevated to a fine art--and the best book of its kind since Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi.

"Splendid. Storace's account of a year in Greece combines past and present, legend and fact, in an unusual and delightful whole. "
--Atlantic Monthly

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An American poet describes a nation poised between pop culture and its mythic past. (Sept.)
Library Journal
"I lived in Athens, at the intersection of a prostitue and a saint," says Storace in what will probably be the most quoted line in book reviews this fall. Storace, a poet (Heredity, LJ 5/1/87) and contributor to the New York Review of Books, moved to Athens for a year of thoughtful reflection that resulted in this fine, absorbing book. Able to speak Greek, Storace moves easily around the city, relating little details of Athenian life and custom ("there is a balcony etiquette I must master," "the Greeks scowl theatrically, implacably, since a smile is not considered an impressive facial expression") and just as easily through Greek history and culture, revealing a breadth of learning that is impressive. The result is neither travelog (though we get plenty of vivid details, like the "glowing lemon" falling like a star on her dining table) nor memoir (though the book is enriched with Storace's personal insights) but a fine cultural study of a country whose magnificent past contrasts painfully with contemporary surliness, embattled pride, and a violence toward women that Storace remarks on throughout. This is the sort of book that defines the pleasure of reading. Highly recommended.Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Kirkus Reviews
Poet and essayist Storace creates a lively, richly textured, anecdotal synthesis of the glorious—and inglorious—modern Greece.

Fending off aggressive Greek men, negotiating with near-comic bureaucracies, visiting the spectacular Greek islands, Storace insinuates herself into quotidian Grecian life—all the while recording a wryly perceptive impression of the land of constant disputation and anomaly. She finds a people who speak of Alexander the Great in the present tense and who blame Coca-Cola for stealing the Olympic Games. Distressing for Storace is the pervasive subordination of women (TV programs, she notes, frequently feature knocking women about as a prelude to love-making); yet the society is also one of maternal worship, and Storace encounters a surprising tolerance for transvestism. Beyond its sexual contradictions, however, Storace perceives a counterintuitive cultural layering, a people whose seemingly conflicting Classical, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman influences survive in unremarked combination. (Writing of the language from hymns heard at a Lenten ceremony honoring the Virgin: "Like Persephone, Mary is a divine bride, like the Demeter of the Orphic hymns, she is . . . the divine nursing mother . . . like Hecate, Athena and Tyche, she is the defender of a city.") Added to this book's wide breadth of history, philosophy, and language are intimately drawn portraits of the countryside and its inhabitants. Storace cruises to the islands of myth, such as Andros and Naxos; visits cemeteries with life-size stone tableaux; attends a lavish wedding (noting that she can never be married in the Greek sense, the word for "marriage" being pandremeni, or "to be under a man"); and hikes into the northern province of Epirus, made famous by Lord Byron, where she finds "the countryside is crystalline, the trees full of language in the form of muttering bees."

This is not a book to be quickly devoured, demanding instead reflection and appreciation, but the payoff, in its lush prose, wealth of history, and sly commentary, is well worth it.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679744788
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/28/1997
Series:
Vintage Departures Series
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
688,633
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.90(d)

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Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Storace is an excellent writer. I marvel at how much she picked up only spending one year in Greece. She writes with great detail, almost brutal honesty, and in so doing, produced an earthy and provocative look at Greece with a foreigner's insightful analysis.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a pretty good book, but it's too long. And sometimes the author makes some generalizations that she cannot prove. I am happy, though, to see that she had such a good time living in my country, and that she tried so hard to understand it. It is a correct thing that she writes about the dreams. The Greeks believe very much in the dreams and what they can mean. One thing that she is wrong for, though, is when she complains so much about the palace on Corfu, the island whose name is really Kerkira. She writes that it is an ugly palace, but maybe she never had the chance to see it on a nice day when the bougainvillae plants are pink-red, and the sun is shining on the statue of Achilles which she doesn't like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a Greek-American women, I took great offense to the repeated accusations that in Greek culture , all men are beat their women. In saying this, you are including my father and extended family who were kind, gentle men. Spending vacation in Greece does not make you an authority on our culture. The Gteek people welcomed her into their country, and all I read was negative judgements. Money for this book would have been better off being flushed down the toilet!