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Words & Humor

The Golden Ass - David R. Godine, Publisher

Hardcover, 96 pages
ISBN 978-1-56792-418-3
978-1-56792-418-3
2011, $17.95

The Golden Ass: of Lucius Apuleius
adapted from the Latin by M.D. Usher
illustrated by T. Motley

The Golden Ass has been a favorite of the private presses and illustrators since the invention of printing. Apuleius's comic masterpiece, originally composed in Latin in the second century a.d. traces the hilarious misadventures of a young man a tad too curious about magic for his own good. Hoping to change himself into an owl, he turns himself into a donkey instead, and in this guise is sold, stolen, or otherwise shunted from one master to the next. Along the way, he sees the underbelly of the sprawling Roman Empire, with its saints and villains, its venal merchants and greedy priests, until he's transformed back to human form via divine intervention. Not only a story of comic redemption, it is also a self-conscious, early example of storytelling that left an indelible mark on subsequent literature from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to Boccaccio's Decameron, from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to Pinocchio.

M.D. Usher's creative adaptation brings the tale alive "for young readers of all ages." Classical scholars will admire its faithfulness and its clever innovations, while new readers young and old will enjoy its freshness and accessibility. Motley's lively, thoroughly contemporary drawings capture the boisterous, see-sawing plot, while wittily quoting any number of graphic predecessors. Here is illustration at its best, at once illuminating and expanding a text while bringing it squarely into a new century.

M.D. Usher is a professor of Classics at the University of Vermont. In addition to publishing scholarly books in the field of classics, he is the author of two other books for children and an opera libertto  in Latin based on the poetry of Virgil.

T. Motley is an illustrator and cartoonist. He teaches cartooning at The School of Visual Arts and Illustration at Pratt Manhattan.

Praise for The Golden Ass

A faithful (if relatively clean) version of the world's oldest surviving complete novel, written 'for librarians, teachers, scholars, and extremely intelligent children.' An entertaining romp, even without the raunchy bits.
Kirkus, November 2011

Adults who are familiar with the ancient tale "The Golden Ass" may be slightly alarmed that it is now being marketed to children, but fear not! The violent, bawdy adventures have been toned down in this adaptation, and the result is  quite enjoyable. . . . Motley's pen-and-ink illustrations are terrifically detailed and cartoonlike and are reminiscent of John Tenniel's work in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The violence and sex have been softened, but the goofiness and sense of adventure are still here, making this book perfect for humor-loving middle schoolers.
School Library Journal

This title is now available as an eBook through Google Play.