Saturday, September 12, 2015

I bow to no man.

A Review of The White Goddess, by Robert Graves.

I bow to no man in my love of Lord of the Rings.  I was a relatively early reader in the early 60's, (at least, I didn't know anyone who had read the book), and I read it so many times I literally lost count.  I searched in vain for a LOTR's-like followup, and really didn't find any for years. In fact, I started writing Star Axe because I wanted something like that. (I'd like to point out I came up with the title of Star Axe before I ever heard of Star Wars, by the way.)

Anyway, by the time The Silmarillion came along, I'd lost some of my mojo. I couldn't read it. Long lists of strange names, like the Old Testament.

I'm currently reading -- or trying to read -- The White Goddess by Robert Graves. Written in 1948, it is a very dense book.

Now I loved I, Claudius (both the books and the TV show), but this book is more or less unreadable.  I found that if I skimmed it more than read it that I actually came away with more comprehension than if I puzzled over each little bit

Hit a chapter last night that I simply couldn't do.  About an ancient alphabet, it might as well have been cryptology as far I was concerned. I skimmed it fast and kept going.

His argument basically (as I understand it) is that modern culture has buried the old Goddess religions behind science and paternalistic values. That by doing so, we've lost the poetic meaning of myths and of our lives.

What I'm finding as he marshals his arguments are snippets of fascinating legends and lore and the occasional connection between them that makes sense.

But I'm also finding a whole lot of dubious connections between traditions and names of different times and different cultures. He goes way too far.

I'd have to call this "Creative Scholarship," if you will. Fascinating in its own right, but not convincing (to me, at least) in its evidence. I mean, his thesis obviously has some truth to it, but he has more or less assembled facts in a creative way.

What I'm most reminded of is The Illuminati, by Robert Anton Wilson, which is another fascinating exercise in tying random information together in a nice tidy whole. 

I'm still going to try to finish it.

Then, after that, maybe I'll give The Silmarillion a try.

1 comment:

Andy Z said...

I highly recommend reading the Silmarillion and then reading LOTR again right after. So much context.