OTHER PEOPLES' MYTHS: The Cave of Echoes by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty

OTHER PEOPLES' MYTHS: The Cave of Echoes

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A generation ago, Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces introduced thousands of Westerners to the world of myth. O'Flaherty (Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities, 1984) seems to be addressing a similar audience today, although she assumes her readers have a basic familiarity with the material. Her attempt is to provide a way to think more deeply and clearly about the great stories from other cultures and our own. O'Flaherty contends first with the difficulty of defining myth, settling on the formulation that myths are, in the deepest sense. ""true stories."" Using stories from Judaic, Christian, Greek, and Hindu sources, as well as from Woody Allen and Kazantzakis, as a vehicle, O'Flaherty's style is breezy and informal. But she is addressing big questions in this series of brief essays--What good are other peoples' stories? What meaning can they carry outside their own context? Where is the force of myth without ritual?--and she sometimes gets tangled in her own thinking. When discussing the study of religion and the controversy between the merits of detached observation and firsthand experience, for example, we are led through complicated comparisons between hunters and sages, and subgroups of hunter-sages, and sub-subgroups of those. But O'Flaherty returns again and again to the usefulness of encountering other cultures through their stories, including their ability to shed light on our own. O'Flaherty (Historian of Religions/U. of Chgo.) has thought long and hard about the mythic world and generously shares her insights and sometimes personal experience here. While astutely warning of the pitfalls and blind alleys likely to be encountered, she holds the hope that through the myths of others, Westerners might bypass the bloodless cynicism of so much contemporary thought and ""skim close to the ground of the human heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0226618579
Publisher: Macmillan