Seductive Retelling
Rishi Srinivasa Iyengar
A SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH; THE PENELOPIAD; WEIGHT by Karen Armstrong Penguin Books, 2006, 135 pp., 225
April 2006, volume 30, No 4

In a strange coincidence, I have recently read two books that present a grand narrative across a vast span of human history. There is a similarity in the approach of Christopher Booker in his Seven Basic Plots, and Karen Armstrong in her A Short History of Myth: prose that seduces with its lucidity, persuading one to accept their elision of particularities, and an engagement with concepts of archetypes. Both authors are prescriptive, demanding a re-engagement with archetypes in storytelling in one case, and, in the instance of Armstrong, with re-mythologizing the world. The prescription of A Short History of Myth, however, is at least ostensibly, taken further. It is the introduction to an ambitious series of novellas in which authors like Margaret Atwood, Chinua Achebe and A.S. Byatt seek to tell old and influential stories in their own ways. The premise of the series is interesting and the attractive cover art is further inducement to read the books by opening their covers. Of the three volumes under review, the cover of Margaret Atwood’s

Continue reading this review