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The Road To Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles Hardcover – 1 Jan 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st British Edition edition (1 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701165464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701165468
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 24 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,651,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An immensely rich and provocative subject...Wood's wide-ranging and penetrating scrutiny is cogently philosophical, keenly aesthetic, and gratifyingly entertaining."--"Booklist""There's a little something here for everyone...Sometimes erudite, sometimes esoteric, always unpredictable."--"Kirkus Reviews"""The Road to Delphi "is a refreshingly original and sometimes startling rereading of oracles, from ancient ambiguities on through Shakespeare to our current perplexities of medicine and terrorism. For Wood, the gods keep returning, but only to confound us."--Harold Bloom, author of "The Western Canon""If not an oracular pronouncement, then a source of terrific and myriad pleasures. Michael Wood's "The Road to Delphi" is all that and then some."--James McManus, author of "Positively Fifth Street" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

An endlessly intriguing topic - exploring the human desire to know the future, and the way this is linked to our passion for riddles and puzzles. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Starts fine; falls off 7 Sep 2008
By John Nordin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Has ever a book started so wonderfully and then died off so quickly? The first 30 or so pages are wonderful, full of striking insights ("Fears and hopes change as history changes, and so do the relations between fears and hopes. But the balancing of fears and hopes is a human constant.") and setting the stage for a mythic book about a mysterious subject.

And then it all dissolves into an incoherent muddle of random observations and overlong discussions. You first begin to wonder when he goes on and on and on about the Oedipus story and in particular the road junction that affected his fate. Eventually, you begin to realize that he is not going to discuss the afterlife of oracles at all, other than how a smattering of later literary figures used them.

The scope of the book is, therefore, a purely literary assessment of oracles. No real input from the realm of history, anthropology or sociology, to say nothing of theology. No discussion of Delphi's real history at all, actually. He does not try to assess the place of Delphi in ancient culture, nor why that changed over time. It is true that his literary references come from a wide range of cultures and periods, but, just because of that, it is not clear how they add up into anything.

Even more frustrating, at least to me, is that two striking things about Delphi that seem to us moderns to be real anomalies - the inaccuracy of some of the oracles and the occasional political corruption of the oracle - are not discussed in any depth. That Delphi urged Athens not to resist Persia, that Athens inverted the oracle to support its policy, and that Delphi was still venerated after Athens won would seem worth a look in, but is ignored.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Elegant, startling and refreshingly original 6 Sep 2008
By Susanna Duffy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's a delight to pick up a book of this calibre. As Wood explores the depth and breadth of the ten ancient oracles he tells a vivid tale encompassing Kafka, Oedipus Rex, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, The Matrix and Macbeth, as well as Delphi, Dionysus and popular horoscopes. The Road to Delphi : Scenes from the History of Oracles is elegant, startling and refreshingly original. I couldn't put it down.
13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Very very good 18 Aug 2004
By K. Kehler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is an enjoyable book, one which can be read straight through or left at one end of the sofa and picked up and continued when the mood strikes one. Or when the omens are promising. The author is learned and writes gracefully, evoking an earlier age -- or many earlier ages -- when literary critics and scholars wrote lucid, elegant, and insightful prose for their peers as well as for the educated -- or simply the interested -- general reader.

I won't say much about the topic, oracles, except to say that we homo sapiens seem to have a rather persistent propensity to be afflicted by oracle-ism: a kind of prophetic wisdom, at odds with commonsensical or empirical knowledge, and therefore acquired on the cheap. And convincing because it implies a flattering interest in us by significant powers.
Good, but not great. 19 Jan 2008
By Heather L. Hurd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think I should start by saying that the writing is a little heavy handed, so if you don't have a genuine academic interest in oracles, both historic and modern, then it probably isn't for you.

I enjoyed it well enough. I liked the academic aspect because it made my brain work, which doesn't happen often enough these days. It was full of interesting information on belief in oracles, ancient practices, and modern ties to old ways.

That being said, it was a little like reading a textbook.
5 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Do not waste your time or money reading this book. 28 Oct 2003
By J. Leland - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The book lacks any sort of cohesiveness. The author rambles on about superfluous facts, which makes for a very dull story. Do not waste your time reading the book. The poor showing also indicates that books reviewed by the Washington Post (as this one was )can be duds.
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