Thursday, February 12, 2004

mythology, synergy, serendipity, library

When I was a kid, I used my mom's, my dad's and my own library card to borrow 12 books at a time from the local library, and spent a whole week reading them. I borrowed frantically from the University library when I was there (ah, the joys of the Short Loan section ... = ). Buying books used to be a big thing for me as a child, and books were the only possessions I truly had.

Since I've started earning my own income though, I've borrowed less, and bought more. I now have a wall full of books in my study, double stacked, much to my wife's chagrin (who feels I have too many books = ). Most of them date from my university days, and many of them are half-read, the way most students read just enough of a book to be able to write an essay on it.

Yesterday I went to the library for the first time in years, and found this little gem: Black Ships Before Troy, by Rosemary Sutcliff, illustrated by Alan Lee. A hybrid between a children's book (the story of the Iliad and the Trojan Horse, retold with illustrations) and a coffee table book (the illustrations are very good), this book managed to hit all my interests in one go - it's the Iliad (the book I read when I was 16 and was stuck at home with chickenpox for 3 weeks - somehow, Nestor's interminable speeches took my mind off the otherwise unbearable itching), it's illustrated by Alan Lee (who did much good work with the Lord of the Rings, and whose work was a major influence on the recent films), and the illustrations look pretty historically accurate (which appeals to the wargamer in me - the first thing I did when I got home last night was to search up Foundry's Trojan Wars line of figs). As usual with me, one thing leads to another, and I find myself simultaneously wanting to re-read the Iliad (I've got a Fitzgerald translation that I haven't read in a while), buy and paint up a 28mm Trojan army (probably a bad idea - Foundry's figs are nice, but the price is dear) and look up more of Alan Lee's work (an excuse to go to vist the Borders/Kino shrine. perhaps? = )

Another serendipitous find was a book called The Hero's Journey: How Educators can Transform Schools and Improve Learning, which brings together two more of my interests - firstly, it's about education (ok, that's not so much of a interest as a job, but I like my job) and secondly, it uses Joseph Campbell's ideas about mythology, which I am a big fan of (the foundation gives a pretty good introduction).

Aside: searching Amazon for "The Hero's Journey" gives you an idea of how many books there are out there that have carried the torch on from Campbell's initial work, from the hero's journey in tarot, to the hero's journey and cancer. My favourite is Star Wars: The Magic of Myth (yet another synergy of two favourites!) which does the best job of explaining Campbell by referencing a familiar story.

Now, to find the time to read these books ...

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