Friday, May 26, 1995

Mexican And Central American Mythology

by Irene Nicholson

This is perhaps the most well written of the Hamlyn books I've read, and the author comes across as more of an expert than the others.  Like the Egyptian one, this book had a thesis geared to dispelling popular misconceptions about the myth at hand: that Mexican theology was not centered around subjugation and the sacrifice of human hearts, but that such things came later with the Aztec conquest; before then, the Nahua and Mayan religions emphasized the self-sacrifice of the humble and the victory of the spiritual over the material or base urges. Unlike the Egyptian book, this one made a good case for the thesis, although Nicholson tends to over-explicate the various symbols in the myths to the point of stretching credibility.  Other than its main thrust, the most interesting aspect of the book was its bewildering presentation of the amazingly accurate and complex Maya and Aztec calendar.

three stars

Sunday, May 21, 1995

Blandings Castle

by P.G. Wodehouse

Containing six stories about Lord Elmsworth and his woes, a story with Bobbie Wickham ("Mr. Potter Takes a Rest Cure") and five tales of what really goes on in Hollywood, as told by a Mr. Mulliner to people he knows only by what they drink.  The reading matter was very much Wodehouse, and made me laugh aloud several times, although somehow he never quite reaches the brilliance of the Bertie & Jeeves material when he writes about other characters.  Tangled plots, young couples that are forbidden each other, young couples who have the all-clear but break up, dominant sisters, etc.  I noted that the last story, "The Castaways," stood out as being very odd, much more fantastic than P.G.'s usual tone.

four stars

Friday, May 19, 1995

In the Field with Teilhard de Chardin

by George Barbour

A book about the priest-archeologist.  I was interested in the subject, but I don't feel it's a good book.  First of all, Barbour included several letters from Teilhard in their entirety, but without explaining many of the references (such as the details of geological problems he was working on) or questions he had about friends or plans (which were never answered by Barbour in the text, so it was pointless to include them).  Since there was rarely a context for his comments, I didn't really get a feel of how Teilhard thought and rarely got a sense of what Teilhard's objectives in the field were.

I enjoyed the anecdotes, such as the meaning of Teilhard's Chinese name, or what he said to someone who had undergone a tragedy and was thinking about becoming Catholic.  As self-contained units of information, they really gave insight into Teilhard's world.  It was too bad that there wasn't more commentary like the Epilogue on his thought, and the geological jargon certainly should have been explained for the layman.

two stars

Saturday, May 6, 1995

A Sense Of Detachment

by John Osborne

John Osborne is a writer totally unknown to me. This drama was a very weird, and not very admirable, example of his work. It begins with the characters talking to the audience, Pirandello-like. They have nothing but contempt for the play, the audience, and each other. There are two plants in the audience who help ridicule the cast, and the cast note that the plants are "tired plot devices." The second part takes off: while the Grandmother reads very graphic descriptions of porn films from a brochure, the rest of the characters recite eloquent and dated love poetry. Then the Chap and the Girl, both denying love and falling in love, embrace each other. That's about it. I'm sure the play would be better visually, as there are very specific notes as to what is to be played on the screen behind the players and what music is to be played. It's interesting that the stage notes, in mentioning the audience, say twice "if there are any left." Well, it's a different play, if not that original, which this kind of thing really should be.

two stars