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Sappho's Leap: A Novel Paperback – May 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332561X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393325614
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

What if the poet Sappho had paused to tell the story of her life in the moment before her legendary leap from the cliff? It's a neat premise, and the grab bag of brilliant bits that is all we know of Sappho's life might, in defter hands, have been fashioned into shimmering whole cloth. Instead, we get a windy, chaotic tale, which owes more to Bob Guccione's "Caligula" than to classical scholarship (sample chapter headings: "Aesop at the Orgy," "The Binding of the Babe"). Jong can't resist turning Sappho into a sandal-shod Isadora Wing, careering from one rapt, cartoonish embrace to another while occasionally crooning verses that as an imitation of Sappho's ravishing, elusive poetry are hopelessly inadequate.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Read Sappho's Leap. It will give you a lot of fresh new ideas about life, love, and sex.” (New York Post)

“Jong's warm-blooded Sappho...is a champion of squirmy physicality, epic love and—best of all—heroic nonconformity.” (New York Observer)

“I've been a grateful reader of her rich and varied work for decades. But no book has excited and delighted me as much as Sappho's Leap.” (Jay Parini)

“What a romp, what fun, what good sex, what a pleasure it is to read Sappho. Who would think that the distant dim classical world could be transformed into such a startling adventure...?” (Anne Roiphe)

“If Odysseus had been a woman, this is the journey he might have taken.” (Susan Cheever)

“[H]ighly entertaining....One of Jong's most enjoyable books.” (Kirkus Reviews)

More About the Author

ERICA JONG
(Bio used www.ericajong.com)
Erica Jong--novelist, poet, and essayist--has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 21 books, including eight novels, seven volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, The Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review and The Wall Street Journal.
In her groundbreaking first novel, Fear of Flying (20 million in print around the world in more than forty languages), she introduced Isadora Wing, who also plays a central part in three subsequent novels--How to Save Your Own Life, Parachutes and Kisses, and Any Woman's Blues. In her three historical novels--Fanny, Shylock's Daughter, and Sappho's Leap--she demonstrates her mastery of eighteenth-century British literature, the verses of Shakespeare, and ancient Greek lyric, respectively. Erica's latest book, a memoir of her life as a writer, Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life, came out in March 2006. It was a national bestseller in the US and many other countries.
A graduate of Barnard College and Columbia University's Graduate Faculties where she received her M.A. in 18th Century English Literature, Erica Jong also attended Columbia's graduate writing program where she studied poetry with Stanley Kunitz and Mark Strand. In 2008, continuing her long-standing relationship with the university, a large collection of Erica's archival material was acquired by Columbia University's Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where it will be available to graduate and undergraduate students. Ms. Jong plans to teach master classes at Columbia and also advise the Rare Book Library on the acquisition of other women writers' archives.

Calling herself "a defrocked academic," Ms. Jong has partly returned to her roots as a scholar. She has taught at Ben Gurion University in Israel, Bennington College in the U.S., Breadloaf Writers' Conference in Vermont and many other distinguished writing programs and universities. She loves to teach and lecture, though her skill in these areas has sometimes crowded her writing projects. "As long as I am communicating the gift of literature, I'm happy," Jong says. A poet at heart, Ms. Jong believes that words can save the world.

Known for her commitment to women's rights, authors' rights and free expression, Ms. Jong is a frequent lecturer in the U.S. and abroad. She served as president of The Authors' Guild from 1991 to 1993 and still serves on the Board. She established a program for young writers at her alma mater, Barnard College. The Erica Mann Jong Writing Center at Barnard teaches students the art of peer tutoring and editing.
Erica Jong was honored with the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature. She has also received Poetry magazine's Bess Hokin Prize, also won by W.S. Merwin and Sylvia Plath. In France, she received the Deauville Award for Literary Excellence and in Italy, she received the Sigmund Freud Award for Literature. The City University of New York awarded Ms. Jong an honorary PhD at the College of Staten Island. In June 2009, Erica won the first Fernanda Pivano Prize for Literature in Italy.

Currently Ms. Jong is working on a novel featuring "a woman of a certain age." Its working title is secret. Fear of Flying is in preparation as a BBC mini-series. Her first anthology, Sugar In My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex, will be published on June 14th, 2011.
Erica Jong lives in New York City and Weston, CT with her husband, attorney Ken Burrows, and standard poodle, Belinda Barkowitz. Her daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, is also a writer.

Customer Reviews

This is her third historical novel, and it is absolutely glorious to read.
Chiarascura
This author, Ms. Jong, is one of the most underestimated writers of today, does herself well with this wonderful work of historical fiction.
Wood Wren
Sappho, as her heroine is not only uninteresting, but has no single aspect of her personality that makes me like her.
Mary V. Cox

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Sam Glover on January 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
On our recent road trip, my girlfriend and I brought along some audio books to help us stay awake. Both were historical fiction set in ancient Greece. Sappho's Leap was read by the author, and her mangled pronunciations and over-dramatic tone may have influenced my reaction, but I don't think so.

Unlike Thermopylae, the subject of Gates of Fire (review coming soon), virtually nothing about Sappho is known, Ms. Jong was free to make up just about any story she liked. And she did. Sappho's Leap is a sappy love story with a long interlude where Jong basically plagiarizes Homer, only watering him down to speed the plot. Further, and to make matters worse, Sappho's Leap is not very well-written. It is melodramatic, banal, and overly adjectival. It reads like syrup. Jong apparently can't think of a word for vagina other than "delta" and nothing for penis other than "phallus," which words are like comedy catchphrases by the end of the novel.

The book starts out well. Sappho has climbed a cliff, but pauses to reflect on the story of her life (in media res, like every Greek story). She starts at the beginning, relating how she runs away from hom with Alceous, a famous Lesbian singer. They are exiled from Lesbos for trying to overthrow its tyrant, and her adventures begin. She is married off to a paunchy lush who lives in Syracuse, although pregnant with Alceous's child, to be named Cleis (mispronounced by Jong). When her husband dies, the adventure begins in earnest. After a stay in Egypt, Sappho takes off with the fabulist, Aesop, for Delphi, but is frequently sidetracked along the way. Jong sends Sappho to the Amazons on Crete (?!?) where she causes the return of Pegasus, the island of the centaurs, the underworld, Medusa's sister, etc.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Garret on May 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Erica Jong is best known for her first novel "Fear of Flying" which was immersed in tremendous success. Pro-feminist, spiritual, poetic, tolerant and highly intellectual, Erica Jong has written numerous novels that deal with women, men, true love, lust, bad relationships, good relationships, the list is endless. Her novels are of the highest literary caliber, and the erotica she writes goes far beyond sensual pleasure. It becomes a religious experience.
Erica Jong's "Sappho's Leap" is about the historic lesbian poet Sappho, who lived in thousands of years ago in the Greek island of Lesbos. From Lesbos, we get the term "lesbian." And it was Sappho who encouraged free love, female independence, equal rights and a lot of modern ideals that were considered unorthodox in her day. Sappho was enamored with women, as well as men, and this quasi-historic novel does not merely serve to titillate the reader with her erotic adventures, it is instead a great portrayal of the great Greek poetess, a mystic journey back in time and a fervent celebration of life.
Sappho is born to an aristocratic family. When she was born, a prophetess announced that she would become famous one day. Aphrodite champions Sappho's cause and makes a bet with Zeus. Zeus and Aphrodite play a game with her life... will Sappho become the famous singer and Greek philosopher she wants to be ? Or will, as Zeus, insists, merely conform to women of her time and marry an unworthy man ? It is Sappho, in the end, who decides her own destiny. The novel is romantic, highly dramatic and full of historic accuracies, enhanced visually by the involvement of gods, goddesses and historic figures such as Queen Jezabel from the Old Testament and the fable writer Aesop. A good read for men and women alike, this novel is sure to touch you with its humor, sadness, and profound wisdom. Viva Erica Jong!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Chiarascura on May 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Erica Jong does it again. This is her third historical novel, and it is absolutely glorious to read. Flawlessly incorporating historical facts into the novel (after reading it, you'll be able to hold your own with many classics majors), she creates a full, three-dimensional portrait of Sappho and the world she lived in. The writing is beautiful as ever, seamlessly weaving in Sappho's fragments. Jong captures the ancient voice of the original storytellers, but isn't afraid to deviate from that with hilarious language anachronisms (hint: at one point, Zeus says "Plato, schmato."). She takes historical figures, such as Rhodopis (the Egyptian Cinderella), Aesop (the famed fabulist) and Alcaeus (Sappho's contemporary poet) and fleshes them out into characters that, while not always complex, are always compelling.

Jong's Sappho is indeed a female Odysseus, traveling through lands both real and mythical, learning lessons along the way and leaving behind her songs. Sappho, like Jong's other heroines, is a consummate woman - independent, yet warm and motherly; sensual and romantic, yet able to take positions of leadership; vulnerable, yet protective of those close to her; brilliant, yet often ruled by her emotions.

"Sappho's Leap" lets us take a closer look at the poetry of the woman Plato termed the 'Tenth Muse'. It shows us how timeless the themes in her poetry really are, and points out what an enormous impact this woman has made on our own language and poetry. That, and it's a fun, exciting read that I wasn't able to put down. Hope you enjoy it! :)
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