Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Margaret Atwood's The Tent: A Book Review

Margaret Atwood’s 2006 flash fiction collection The Tent delivers poignant prose, witty logic, and comedic reflections. While it is hard to discuss the collection as a unit, each piece comes in under a thousand words each and thus is perfect for single serving fiction. That said, Atwood accomplishes a great deal of work in a small space, packing a poetic, economical punch in prose form. Whether it is reimaging fairy tales as the orphans within them react to their predicaments, exploring the inner workings of not just a warlord but those who live in a warlord’s society, or discussing the species names we have thrust on animals from their point of view, Atwood never fails to make the read ponder, consider, and in most cases laugh. Reviewing a collection of short stories is always difficult—but this collection is not lacking in either complexity or enjoyment and will make a great compliment to anyone’s library.  

Thursday, June 23, 2016

John Lindow's Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs: A Book Review

Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs is an academic text first and foremost. This is not Poetic Edda, you will not read wonderfully translated poetry (in full) but this text is a text first and foremost. Starting with a cultural introduction and then digging into the few recorded texts that comprise our modern mythological knowledge, author John Lindow paints an informative and detailed picture. The bulk of the book, the meat and potatoes, is a glossary of mythological terms. Piece by piece, character by character, term by term, Lindow breaks down Norse mythology. He digs it, presenting each version of a myth, detailing the lines that mention pertinent and minor characters alike, and he works to break down the kennings and the etymology of each name, custom, and term.

In the end, read this book if you want information, if you want to understand the culture and perspective of Norse myth. It is academic, know that going in, but relish the depth of information as you turn the pages.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

D'Aulaire's Norse Gods & Giants: A Book Review

I picked this text up in order to start digging into Norse mythology for a work of fiction I am/was working on. Instead of diving into the source text without a background, I was able to use D'Aulaire's Norse Gods & Giants. While dated, the book presents a detailed, well researched account of Norse myth. Beginning with the creation of the cosmos, using the concrete terminology from the medieval texts, the D’Aulaires follow the path of the birth of giant Ymir all the way through to the aftermath of Ragnarok. We are thus walked through the full breadth of the pantheon of Scandinavian mythos and few details are left unturned.

Written in plain text and complete with illustrations, the D’Aulaires dig into the depths of the famed Poetic Edda. In doing so, they create a brilliant tale, intended for children yes, but also crafted in a manner in which all ages can and will be entertained. Beyond information and enjoyment, the text serves academic purposes as well as a plain text, relatable instrument that you can present to students to introduce them to Norse topics before contrasting with the source text. While not available for new purchase, there are plenty of sellers out there who make the text available for purchase for an affordable price.