28 February 2008

Book Review: From Homer to Harry Potter

Finally getting around to reviewing this.

I thought most of it was wonderful. To begin, the authors delved deeply into what is fairy tale, whom it's appropriate for, and the lay of the land of Faërie. I appreciated their differentiation between modern fantasy and science fiction, a distinction that is most helpful to me as it deals much with worldview.

Then we traveled to Biblical lands to learn how the Bible is true myth. ('Myth' doesn't mean an untrue story, but a story dealing with gods or, in this case, God and his works and ways.) After the stop in the Middle East, we wended our way through medieval literature. We also stopped at the nineteenth century to visit the Grimm Brothers. The last chapters of the book dealt with more recently-written Faërie stories and authors, including Ursula LeGuin, Phillip Pullman, and Jo Rowling.

I came away with a better appreciation for the stories I love so much and encouragement that I wasn't far off in some of my opinions regarding books I didn't like. I also came away inspired to read more of the stories from the land of Faërie and, maybe, even to try my hand at writing one.

In addition to the delightful exploration of Story, the authors specifically challenged me to think hard regarding the order of the writings of the ancient world. I've always been of the opinion that Moses didn't necessarily write Genesis from scratch, but compiled ancient documents into the book we have now and that those ancient documents had been handed down and added to by the generations from Adam, and was thus older than, for example, The Epic of Gilgamesh. (I think that thought came from Ruth Beechick's Adam and His Kin.) However, given Jesus's assumption regarding Moses' authorship of Genesis, I don't know that this is quite accurate, after all. Dickerson and O'Hara put forth the idea that, even though other creation and flood accounts may be older, that shouldn't cast doubt on Moses' account. (It seems the articles I've read about this always race to prove that Genesis came first.) Moses, being raised in Pharaoh's court, would have had access to all the knowledge that man had gathered to that date, including the ancient creation and flood narratives. I don't find it a stretch to think that he read those contemporary accounts, and then, under inspiration, wrote to set the record straight. An analogy that came to my mind was of two witnesses to the same event, one of whom releases his inaccurate account immediately, while the other releases his more accurate account later. Just because the second witness has the latter-published work, doesn't make his less true.

What I didn't like: while the authors called into question Moses' authorship of Genesis, they ignored the authorship controversy surrounding the Iliad and the Odyssey. Since Christ himself attibuted Genesis to Moses, I'm not comfortable with their stand.

I did find my copy disappearing a few times as Nathan would steal away with it and once it was buried in Benjamin's room. I'm not surprised at Nathan's interest, but Ben can catch me unawares.

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