Catherine Austen's Reviews > A Short History of Myth

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
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's review
Dec 14, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in January, 2011

If you think of this as an essay and NOT a history, it`s a very likeable book. It is beautifully written and full of interesting stuff that gets you thinking. I`d recommend it to anyone intererested in myth and the "nature of man" and such stuff.

But not so much to people interested in historical facts, as it makes huge sweeping statements based on a very narrow range of evidence. (What is the deal with social scientists? Are they overcompensating for the difficulty of testing their theories? Physical scientists often stress that a theory is just the best interpretation of the available evidence; social scientists look at one cave painting and tell us the "facts" about what prehistoric humans thought and felt. Sheesh.)

Perhaps the questionable factual nature of the book is intentional? She talks about how people used to look at history in terms of what events meant, whereas now we care about what actually happened. This book works as old-school history in that sense, and it gets you thinking about ways we making meaning of the way others made myths. But throughout the book, I felt that her interpretations were imposed on the past and that life was probably nothing like what this book claims. (And I found the idea of novels serving as mthys in the modern world, well, lame.)

But it was still a very good book and I liked it very much. My favourite part was a quote from Pascal that made me think I should read more works from the 17th century. I figure any book that makes me want to go read Pascal is an exceptionally good book.
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