Friday, April 9, 2010

Favorites from the Past

The Power of Myth
by Joseph Campbell
with Bill Moyers

Every Friday, Alyce At Home With Books features this meme inviting us to look back at a favorite book from the past. This week, as I was re-shelving several of my lenten books, I brushed up against this beautifully illustrated version of Joseph Campbell's series he did with Bill Moyers on PBS so many many years ago.  Both hubbie and I were enthralled listening to these discussions.  We immediately bought and read the book.

Campbell was one of those very talented thinkers and writers who had the ability to take very complex subject matter and present in words that were not only understandable, they were interesting.  He draws in his audience and brings us an understanding of the subliminal influences from our anthropological past.  He explains the various story-telling traditions of humankind, makes us aware of life as narrative, and in a series of discussions Moyers and Campbell explore the evolution of life as story from pre-historic times to modernity.

It's been too long since I've read it to write a decent review, but here's the Amazon description:

Among his many gifts, Joseph Campbell's most impressive was the unique ability to take a contemporary situation, such as the murder and funeral of President John F. Kennedy, and help us understand its impact in the context of ancient mythology. Herein lies the power of The Power of Myth, showing how humans are apt to create and live out the themes of mythology. Based on a six-part PBS television series hosted by Bill Moyers, this classic is especially compelling because of its engaging question-and-answer format, creating an easy, conversational approach to complicated and esoteric topics. For example, when discussing the mythology of heroes, Campbell and Moyers smoothly segue from the Sumerian sky goddess Inanna to Star Wars' mercenary-turned-hero, Han Solo. Most impressive is Campbell's encyclopedic knowledge of myths, demonstrated in his ability to recall the details and archetypes of almost any story, from any point and history, and translate it into a lesson for spiritual living in the here and now. --Gail Hudson

The conversations are thought-provoking and beautiful.  They are meant to be read individually and slowly, to be savored and lingered over.  It's taken me almost an hour to type this paragraph because I got lost skimming through the book again.  It's definitely going on the 'read-it-again' pile.  If you're not familiar with Campbell's work, you are missing a treat.  As they used to say in that old commercial: "Try it, you'll like it."


  1. I remember wanting to watch that series but it just isn't Dave's thing so I skipped it. I could read the book and get even more out of it. Thanks.

  2. gosh, I know I read something of Campbell's in college, oh, so many years ago, but I can't remember what.
    I was not terribly taken with him. We have a very different view, he and I, on religion.
    But I must say this book sounds interesting.

  3. This is one of those books (and shows) that I've had recommended to me time and again and just keeps sliding off my radar. Thanks for the reminder!


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