aPriL does feral sometimes 's Reviews > Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
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really liked it
bookshelves: black-gleeful-fun, fantasy, humor, illuminating, magical-drama, mythology

If, gentle reader, you love myths or you simply are curious about the stories of the ancient Norse gods (in particular the fans of the Marvel Avenger Movie series should take note), or if you are a fan of the author Neil Gaiman's previous novels and graphic comics, I recommend picking up Gaiman's 'Norse Mythology'. It is written in the manner of a New Revised Standard Edition of ancient Norse mythology for modern readers. It is very amusing, too, while it enlightens and educates. The source material easily shows its comedic nature in the hands of a good writer like Gaiman! I also recommend drinking large tankards of mead during the reading, unless you are under 18, of course.

If you also have attempted and failed to finish reading any of the academic versions of these myths in annotated scholarly paperback editions with long forewords by professors with lots of letters after their names (usually from Oxford) and huge indexes in the back, with the book all done up in horribly small print with thin paper along with a modern English translation which tries to exactly duplicate the original 12th-century text sources (or whatever), then try this book instead. It is kind of an accurate enough Norse God Stories Primer for General Reader Dummies, but it really truly is fun and entertaining, too.

A lot of modern readers have difficulty with books about ancient myths for many reasons, gentle reader, but I think Gaiman has found a way to present these stories for readers who are rather shallowly educated like us American audiences. The book is written in a straightforward manner. It is arranged like a modern novel, having put the various surviving Norse tales in an order which makes the disparate stories more like episodes in a plot. The gods are characters like in an action movie which is somewhat gory and yet funny at the same time.

The modern development of telling stories in the now pro forma introduction-focused action-denouement method of current novels is the style people prefer to read today because we can understand it completely. We are often immersed in the modern author's fictional world-building seamlessly because we are familiar with the elements of writing a modern novel we all have learned to expect since elementary school and from watching TV. I say this because I have read GR reviews by YA readers who can't make sense of novels written in the 18th or 19th centuries or they do not have the patience to follow the style of dense plot meandering and author editorializing or philosophical discussions of books written in early centuries.

Readers are losing the knack of understanding reading material which hasn't been simplified and pruned down to mere 10-minute sketches separated by chapters, with ideas being outlined in broad strokes, and all of it linked in a manner TV has accustomed us to expect. The truth is many people find even English fiction that has not been written with our current commonly-used conversational short words and compacted bumper-sticker ideas TLTR. I suspect, though, many readers do not feel or know or care if they have lost anything, for example, of the Bible's details or meanings in its current simplified dumbed-down modernized abridgment, much less the ongoing simplification of standardized genre formulas in writing novels. However, myths are perfect for simplification as it seems they do not really lose a lot of their impact (or lesson, if there is one) in the hands of a good writer like Gaiman. It appears organizing the stories can really help, too.

There is the additional complication of the impact of time and changing cultures, language and technology on understanding stories and myths. For example, English language Bibles are only bastardized translations of the original ancient Hebrew Bible, which in turn was put down on 'paper' millennia after the events it claims to record, as writing was developed rather late in the history of civilization. Some think the Jews picked up writing after exposure to more ancient peoples living in Babylonia who were developing a system of writing. The first writing that archeologists discovered so far appear to record income, purchases and sales of goods around 3,000 BCE; but the verbal telling of stories and myths had been ongoing for many thousands of years before these written inventory lists were discovered.

Mythological stories which had been passed down verbally through who knows how many thousands of years before the invention of writing were finally written down in early proto-novels, which to tell the truth, only academics, voracious readers, students and the curious are willing to attempt. Certain publishers, like Penguin Classics and Oxford Classics, do a good job in contextualizing early writing styles in my opinion, but they do academic-oriented versions.

If you think about it, we are also unable to read the myths such as those of the Torah, Bible, Quran, or Norse and Celtic legends, or those myths of India, Russia and China, with the same understanding of the Universe as it was understood by people living in 300 CE, today being the 21st century of telescopes and satellites and Einstein physics; but that hasn't stopped people from thoroughly believing they understand the stories 'as written'.

The art of writing fiction came along slowly as well. I have read proto-novels from the 16th and 17th centuries whose structure is not only primitive to me, the plots seemed incredibly dull by today's standards because they lack the development of place, character and action that we know to employ today.

Many English-speaking people say they enjoy reading the King James Version of the Bible, but if they are really modern Christians they may actually be using the New Revised Standard Edition Bible or something similar for daily study because the NRSV is written in simple modernized English and the King James version is not. This is because the King James version is written in the flowery dense English of 1611.

It is what it is, folks. I hear the Palmer method of cursive writing is not being taught in some schools anymore, either, so some kids can only read printed alphabet letters. I know we can expect trouble about ebooks because of the quick upgrading of operating systems (anyone still using WordStar?), but I did not think cursive would die!
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Reading Progress

March 29, 2017 – Shelved
March 29, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
May 15, 2017 – Started Reading
May 19, 2017 –
page 45
14.8% "I like Loki. Can't help it."
May 21, 2017 –
page 93
30.59% "Omgods! How the gods got their wall! I'm still laughing!"
May 22, 2017 –
page 231
75.99% "Gaiman's version of the Norse gods is hilarious!"
May 24, 2017 –
page 303
99.67% "Really fun read!"
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: black-gleeful-fun
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: fantasy
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: humor
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: illuminating
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: magical-drama
May 24, 2017 – Shelved as: mythology
May 24, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Bruce (new)

Bruce "If you think about it, we are also unable to read the myths such as those of the Torah, Bible, Quran, or Norse and Celtic legends, or those myths of India, Russia and China, with the same understanding of the Universe as it was understood by people living in 300 CE, today being the 21st century of telescopes and satellites and Einstein physics; but that hasn't stopped people from thoroughly believing they understand the stories 'as written'. "

The books of Samuel and Kings in the Bible have some great stories. The characterization is really good, especially with figures like David and Elijah. But they take some work because of the differences in culture and perspective.


message 3: by Cecily (new)

Cecily What an excellent way to compare this version with more traditional ones.

(I was taught cursive, and still use it for the few things I write by hand, but that's so rare, it's a mess!)


aPriL does feral sometimes Thank you, Cecily!

: )


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