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In one of the longest tales, recalling the camp appeal of ''Xena: Warrior Princess,'' Sappho and Aesop discover a separatist commune of Amazons. Their day-care system rivals Sweden's, but their literary taste is less progressive: they capture Sappho and demand that she write an epic ''Amazoniad. The queen faces a rebellion from a group of second-wave subjects, who protest old-fashioned separatism in favor of a sex-friendly new order. Will Sappho rule over them instead? Sappho is intrigued at the prospect, but her answer is no: ''I loved the adulation and applause, but administration bored me.

With Aesop's help, Sappho founds a utopia using a Ten Commandments of sorts, in an amusing parody of the biblical account. But her quest is not over. Like Odysseus, Sappho must return home to deal with political and domestic tensions.

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The novel melts back into melodrama through a series of midlife crises, from Sappho's reconciliation with Alcaeus and her mother and daughter to her rediscovery of passion, first with her music students and then with Phaon, an enticing younger man. In the ancient tradition, Phaon is the cause of Sappho's suicidal leap from a sea cliff. The novel opened with her steps toward the edge; it reveals Sappho's fate in the last chapter.

Erica Jong's celebrity will never rest on her literary talents. This is a book, after all, in which a friendly centaur can revive a languishing maiden with an ''arc of fire'' from its ''enormous'' phallus.

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But her effort to bring to life an ancient writer engrossed in politics, family and the creation of poetry is a relief from the relentlessly everyday sincerity of much current ''women-oriented'' writing. If only she had confronted the real historical mystery of how Sappho made her way in the violent, male-dominated world of ancient Greece -- such a novel would have done justice to the remarkable woman that Sappho obviously was.

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    Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Nov 30, Jack rated it liked it Shelves: 1-classics , alia-fortvna.

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