Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
A wonderfully written journey through weirdness!
on 26 July 2012
Hard to know how to pitch a review against a book that was free, over 150 years old, and analysing matters and beliefs that went centuries earlier.
It's beautifully written, the author has clearly endeavoured to craft his words and sentences with care, beyond just getting the message over. At times you wonder why you are wading through pages of nonsensical primitive stuff, some of it potentially quite offensive in our era, but it is clear the author is carefully trying to document what is being said without prejudice. Occasionally he sums up and it becomes clear where he stands on these beliefs and myths ... usually sceptical or agnostic. The chapter on divination (divining rods) is an interesting discourse in the ongoing battle between fraud and hard-to-understand science, and impressive in that little seems to have changed all this time on.
It's hard going at times, the first chapter is heavy on the antisemitism (although I'm not sure that's the author's viewpoint), other chapters push other buttons, and will surely find one or two to catch most people. Another review made a comment about being overloaded with facts, he seems to enter some sort of blitz towards the end of some of the chapters, the carefully crafted prose gives way to a heavy bombardment of references to cultures, tribes, ideas and beliefs as he tracks back through ancient history. This is a discourse through anecdotes more than myths ... he's starting with the stuff people say to each other to make a point and then drilling through to the english story, the european origins and eventually back through the rest, usually to some sort of sanskrit text in India. So where we start with carefully described connections and analogies to demonstrate how there is a connection between one groups myth and another, we kind of end up with a list of ten more we are expected to accept.
Having said that, it's incredible to find that stories we grew up with, like William Tell, Bedd Gellert, the lost sleepers, Venus's brothel in a mountain are shared across so many cultures (with the names and place changed). The author tends to assume if he can find an early similar story then that's an origin ... of course, usually he's probably right, but he doesn't dicuss the posibility that they could have been dreamt up independently or through some other shared inspiration.
I've paid proper money to read inferior books by contemporary authors, so whilst I'd normally say maybe 3 and a half or 4 stars .. I'll give him the 5, I really enjoyed this read.