"For the merest instant the rain-ships became mist-ships and then the breeze gently blew them apart..." p. 106 Except for a couple chapters early in th...more"For the merest instant the rain-ships became mist-ships and then the breeze gently blew them apart..." p. 106 Except for a couple chapters early in the book that sort of dragged on a bit, I thoroughly enjoyed the story AND all the quirky footnotes of varying length. It does read like a history book, but this history major found that all the better to enjoy. I do wish there had been stronger / more complex characters in some ways. The imagery, however, is beautiful. Clark has a wonderful way of describing impossible things and turning them into rich, amazing pictures. If it wasn't so very long, I would read it again right away. If there is ever a sequel, I will read that, too. This is an excellent winter read - when you need something absorbing enough to take your mind off the cold and something long enough to last the season with you. (less)
Kind of like a YA version of Gaiman's American Gods... yeah, actually, a lot like that. I wanted to see the LIghtning Thief movie so I read the book t...moreKind of like a YA version of Gaiman's American Gods... yeah, actually, a lot like that. I wanted to see the LIghtning Thief movie so I read the book to be prepared. It was interesting to go from another 6th-grader story (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda) to this 6th-grader story without realizing they would both be targeted at and/or about the same age group. I'd say Lightning Thief did a much better job in a lot of ways. I also think Lightning Thief did a better job than American Gods of handling the "presence older than the gods" element - which created a sequel segue that actually hooked me. Already on to the second installment! (less)
I started with Short History of Myth because it is the first title in the Canongate Myth Series -- books by different authors, from different countries, retelling a myth from their culture. I heard about this series because Philip Pullman's latest book is the latest addition to the series (The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ).
The book is a nice, short introduction to mythology -- just 150 pages long. In such a small amount of space, it would be hard to really do justice to any particular aspect of mythology so I have to give Armstrong some credit for summing things up as well as she did. My biggest problem with the book was in the second and third chapters when she is describing the development of mythology and religion during the Palaeolithic and Neolithic Periods. There were so many universal statements and broad sweeping assumptions that I started getting really annoyed with the writing, even though I was really into the topic. Starting with the fourth chapter on early cities and city-states, the writing improved and the book got a lot more interesting. I now have a longer reading list with things I never thought I would want to read, like the Epic of Gilgamesh, when man first turns his back on his gods -- "Mortals are better off without these destructive encounters with irresponsible gods" (p. 74).
From there, we go into the Axial Age - so named because it is considered a pivotal time in humanity's spiritual development and marks the beginning of religions as we know them today. Post-Axial followed that with religions trying to become rational - throwing out their mythology in favor of silly attempts at "proving" the facts in their respective literatures. And finally, we get The Great Western Transformation, which brings us up to modern day. This chapter is terribly sad, depressing, emotional, but, by the end, hopeful.
This might be a weird analogy, but bear with me … I felt like I was reading something like Peter Pan, with a lot of foreshadowing of Tinkerbell's death and not knowing if this new altered version of Peter Pan would save her or not. At the same time, I found myself rooting for Tinkerbell even though I've always thought of her as rude and troublesome before. Replace Tinkerbell in this equation with religion/mythology and maybe you'll get what I mean.
Mythology is the hero in this little book. A misunderstood, riches-to-rags character of heartache. Our heartache. Their heartache. Everyone's heartache. But if another person's mythology isn't dressed up like our own, we try to destroy it ... then steal the clothes to drape over our own mythology anyway. Does mythology die in the end? I'll leave that to you to decide.
p. 124 "Myth had made human beings believe that they were bound up with the essence of the universe, yet now it appeared that they had only a peripheral place on an undistinguished planet revolving around a minor star."
p. 138 "It has been writers and artists, rather than religious leaders, who have stepped into the vacuum and attempted to reacquaint us with the mythological wisdom of our past." (less)
The book could be summed up as "No! That's not what I said!" in a painful, wincing way.
It was very simply and elegantly written, mixing words and metaphors from famous English translations of the Bible with Pullman's own what-if version. He managed to put some realistic human angles into the story of the gospels yet keep some of the original fairy tale aspects, too. One of the best examples I've seen of showing how we got it wrong, we got it all wrong.
Jesus' soliloquy at Gethsemane is a beautiful, believable, universal surrender to doubting the divine and, at the same time, a love letter to this crazy world we live in. I think everyone should read this book for at least that chapter alone, and if you want to skip ahead to it, fine -- it's pages 192 - 201 in the hardback edition.
I do wish that the book had a completely different title. The given title was too distracting to me. As I was reading, I kept trying to place things according to what the the title told me to expect, which made parts of the story confusing. I wish the title had instead been the big bold phrase on the inside front flap of the dust jacket:
This is a story.
A much more powerful way to describe what the reader is about to experience ... and by the end of the book, you might think of that title in a whole different way. (less)
I enjoyed this series, but decided not to continue on to the last two books. The author made some very clever transitions and updates to make the Olym...moreI enjoyed this series, but decided not to continue on to the last two books. The author made some very clever transitions and updates to make the Olympian myths seem relevant to the 21st century. I especially like turning the Lotus Eaters into a casino in Las Vegas. It was fun to look up each new mythological entity in Wikipedia and see how well he had used the original story. (less)
Read this with the August 2011 #1book140 book club on twitter. It's been compared to Gaiman's American Gods (an earlier #1book140 read) but I think a more accurate comparison would be to Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens. Gods Behaving Badly is much lighter fare than either of those two books, but has more of the good-humored nature of Good Omens than the darker conflicts in American Gods.
It was good for a light summer read. Sort of like Percy Jackson R-rated. (less)
I'm hearing that a lot of people are rereading this book now that the 50th anniversary edition and graphic novel edition are out, and finding that the...moreI'm hearing that a lot of people are rereading this book now that the 50th anniversary edition and graphic novel edition are out, and finding that they don't actually recognize ever reading it before. I had that same experience. Could have sworn I read this a lot as a child, but nothing about the story seemed familiar other than as a strange religious take on Doctor Who themes (but Doctor Who started three years after this book originally came out). Interesting to see how the zeitgeist of the times plays out in so many different pop culture manifestations.
Reading this book now, in 2012, it's very difficult to imagine the kind of impact it must have had in the '60s. The main character is a girl who is good at math. Witchy fairy godmother angel beasts explain physics. Conformity is evil. Parents aren't all-knowing. I'm tempted to read the other two books in the series but I'm even more tempted to go back to other books that I swear I read as a child and see how much I recognize in those.
Mentioned in Wikipedia article on tarot cards - "Mediaeval travellers meeting at a castle are inexplicably unable to speak, and use a tarot deck to de...moreMentioned in Wikipedia article on tarot cards - "Mediaeval travellers meeting at a castle are inexplicably unable to speak, and use a tarot deck to describe their stories, which are reconstructed by the narrator, calling forth implications of the nature of communication, fate, and the presence of the transcendent in daily life."(less)