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review 2017-09-21 08:42
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is a somewhat bland modern re-rewording of the shenanigans of the Norse Gods and Goddesses, the creation, and end of the World, that can be found in the Poetic and Prose Eddas.  If you don't know much about the Norse Gods and Goddesses, this is a decent, easy to read introduction.  If you know the basics, then you will find nothing new in this book.  This book also does not include any of the Norse myths/legends like Sigurd and the Dragon.










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review 2017-09-04 09:09
The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology by Kevin Crossley-Holland
The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology - Kevin Crossley-Holland (Translator)

A lovely, diverse collection of Anglo-Saxon writings translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland, including Beowulf, a collection of  Heroic Poems, Elegies, Church writings, Laws, portions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Poems of Exploration, some riddles from the Exeter Book and other odds-and-ends.  The translations are clear and accessible and each section is preceded by a commentary which puts the Anglo-Saxon texts into context.  This collection provides a picture of the people who migrated to the British Isles as pagans and became Christians within a few centuries.


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review 2017-05-15 08:26
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus - Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is a retelling parts of the Odyssey myth from the perspective of Odysseus's wife, Penelope.  The author's aim is to answer two questions she had while reading the Odyssey:  what led to the handing of Penelope's 12 maids and what was Penelope really up to?

This book reminds me of the prescribed fiction we had to "dissect" in school - a teachers wet dream with all those "how do you feel about xyz" or "what did the author think" questions.  In short, I found the book boring and the interludes with the chanting maids chorus and other commentary annoying.  Penelope's story would have made an ok, if somewhat insipid, alternative retelling on it's own.  The characters are flat and I found no reason to care about Penelope or her associates at all.  The Odyssey manages to make its readers care with less information and page time.  The commentaries would have made a mediocre, and not too well researched college essay on the subject..  Together, they were just annoying.  As for providing a new perspective, this is only valid if you know nothing about Greek history or mythological tales.


Thank Dionysus that the book was so short!


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review 2017-03-30 00:40
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Hinges of History #4)
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter - Thomas Cahill

The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth.  Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture.  But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold.


Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures.  Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings.  The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists.  Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know.  Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today.


Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book.  Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization.  Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today.


For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy.  Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today.  While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished.

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review 2017-03-21 00:00
A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World
A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World - Robert Bringhurst Absolutely fascinating and probably better read more slowly or more times than I did. As the traditions are so absolutely different than literature I'm familiar with, I had a hard time getting a lot of them as clearly as Bringhurst wanted me to, I think. What I did get was slightly dizzying in scope, and I feel like I'll need to go back to it.

Bringhurst was also selling his point hard that he was talking about proper art, which was more or less preaching to the choir, but I suppose it did someone good. I should like to hear it spoken, as pronunciation guides elude me.
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