Recommended reading for classicists (and budding Indiana Joneses) graduating beyond Edith Hamilton.

MYTHOS AND COSMOS

MIND AND MEANING IN THE ORAL AGE

Lundwall contends that far from being ignorant and backward savages, the preliterate cultures that created mankind’s most ancient mythological tales had a high degree of intellectual sophistication.

Lundwall finds fault with the general line of thinking regarding humanity’s oldest known stories, mythologies, and the religious lore of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Mesopotamians, etc. Western European scholarly arrogance—“often the product of the ego”—is at fault, he says, for the Darwin-inspired mindset that our ancestors were either howling barbarians, ruled by childlike superstition and uncouth brutality, or noble hippie-type simpletons living in Edenic harmony and peace with each other and nature. Nor does he agree with so-called “Conspirators,” who believe that ancient feats (e.g., the Egyptian pyramids) could only have resulted from contact with and technical assistance from space aliens. In fact, though the ancients relied on oral more so than written traditions, leaving enormous gaps in the annals of history, Lundwall argues that our forebears were much like ourselves, with sublimely subtle levels of metaphysical thinking and nuanced spoken/written languages—ones that have suffered in later translations. They also created tremendous architectural wonders, intricate concepts encoded in ritual dance, and sophisticated astronomical observations. According to Lundwall, even such seemingly indefensible practices as the Aztec rite of cutting out a human heart as a sacrificial offering has, in context, symbolism going far beyond gross savagery. Admirably wary of self-described authorities who tend to oversimplify, Lundwall argues in prose that sometimes crosses the boundary from academic to pop (he once cites a Jay Leno comedy routine). In terms of actually dissecting a myth, it’s mainly the Epic of Gilgamesh (and some of the works of Heracles) that gets a full narrative recounting. In his latter pages, he covers the overlapping of the Old Testament and Genesis with pre-existing lore and historical truth. Several of his salient points stand out, particularly his refreshingly broad perspective of what is, in modern times, the fragmented pursuit of knowledge. “The modern division between these areas of knowledge has no parallel in the ancient world,” he says. “Each branch of knowledge is really nothing more than a function of some invisible principle of the omnipotent cosmos who has one divine source.”

Recommended reading for classicists (and budding Indiana Joneses) graduating beyond Edith Hamilton.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: C&L Press

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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