Re: May 2022 MBR The Mythology Shelf

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Steve Hayes

Jun 4, 2022, 2:23:30 AM6/4/22
On Wed, 1 Jun 2022 20:04:59 -0700 (PDT), Midwest Book Review
<> wrote:

The Mythology Shelf

The Japanese Myths
Joshua Frydman
Thames & Hudson, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110-0017
9780500252314, $24.95, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: While people around the world love Japan's cultural exports
from manga and anime to Zen, not everyone is familiar with Japan's
unique mythology that shapes these interests, which is enriched by
Shinto, Buddhism, and regional folklore. Compiled by Joshua Frydman,
"The Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits" is a smart
and succinct guide to the rich tradition of Japanese mythology, from
the earliest recorded legends of Izanagi and Izanami with their divine
offspring and the creation of Japan, to medieval tales of vengeful
ghosts, through to the modern-day reincarnation of ancient deities as
the heroes of mecha anime.

Mythology remains a living, evolving part of Japanese society. The
ways in which the people of Japan understand their myths are very
different today even from a century ago, let alone over a millennium
into the past. "The Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and
Spirits" not only retells these ancient stories but also considers
their place within the patterns of Japanese religions, culture, and
history, helping readers understand the deep links between past and
present in Japan, and the ways these myths live and grow.

With the publication of "The Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes
and Spirits ", author Joshua Frydman takes the very earliest written
myths in the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki as his starting point, and
from there traces Japan's mythology through to post-war State Shinto,
the rise of the manga industry in the 1960s, J-horror, and modern-day
myths. Frydman ties in the reinventions and retellings of myths that
are present across all genres of contemporary Japanese culture, from
its auteur cinema to renowned video games such as Okami. "The Japanese
Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits" is for anyone interested
in Japan and Japanese exports, as knowing its myths allows readers to
understand and appreciate its culture in a new light.

Critique: Joshua Frydman (an Assistant Professor of Japanese at the
University of Oklahoma and an expert in ancient Japanese literature)
draws upon his academic expertise in cultural research to provide a
comprehensive volume that will be of particular and acute interest to
students of Japanese culture, history and religion -- making "The
Japanese Myths: A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits" and valued and
appreciated addition to personal, professional, community, college,
and university library Folklore & Mythology collections.

The Great Book of King Arthur
John Matthews, author
John Howe, illustrator
Harper Design
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway, New York, NY, 10007
9780063243125, $32.50, HC, 512pp

Synopsis: The stories of King Arthur and Merlin, Lancelot and
Guinevere, Galahad, Gawain, Tristan and the rest of the Knights of the
Roundtable, and the search for the Holy Grail have been beloved for
centuries and are the inspiration of many modern fantasy novels,
films, and shows. These legends began when an obscure Celtic hero
named Arthur stepped on to the stage of history sometime in the sixth
century, generating a host of oral tales that would be inscribed some
900 years later by Thomas Malory in his classic Morte D'Arthur (The
Death of Arthur).

"The Great Book of King Arthur: and His Knights of the Round Table"
brings these legends into the modern age, using accessible prose for
contemporary readers for the first time. In addition to the stories in
Morte D'Arthur, author and storyteller John Matthews includes many
tales of Arthur and his knights either unknown to Malory or written in
other languages, such as the story of Avenable, the girl brought up as
a boy who becomes a famous knight; Morien, whose adventures are as
fantastic and exciting as any found in Malory's work; and a retelling
of the life of Round Table favorite Gawain, from his strange birth to
his upbringing among the poor to his ascension to the highest position
-- Emperor of Rome.

In addition, there are some of the earliest tales of Arthur, deriving
from the tradition of Celtic storytelling. The epic hero is
represented in such powerful stories as "The Adventures of Eagle-boy"
and "The Coming of Merlin," which is based on the early medieval text
Vita Merlini and tells a completely new version of the great
enchanter's story.

Critique: Enhanced for the reader's enjoyment, "The Great Book of King
Arthur: and His Knights of the Round Table" features 15 full-color
paintings and 25 pencil drawings by artist/illustrator John Howe. The
result is a fun and informative volume that will prove to be an
especially prized and appreciated addition to community, college, and
university library Folklore & Mythology collections. An absolute 'must
read' for the legions of King Arthur fans, it should be noted for
personal reading lists that "The Great Book of King Arthur: and His
Knights of the Round Table" is also available in a digital book format
(Kindle, $19.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book
(9798200969715, $57.99, CD).

A Jewish Bestiary, updated and expanded edition
Mark Podwal
Penn State University Press
820 North University Drive, University Park, PA 16802-1003
9780271091730, $14.95, 88pp

Synopsis: "Ask the beast and it will teach thee, and the birds of
heaven and they will tell thee." Job 12:7

In the Middle Ages, the bestiary achieved a popularity second only to
that of the Bible. In addition to being a kind of encyclopedia of the
animal kingdom, the bestiary also served as a book of moral and
religious instruction, teaching human virtues through a portrayal of
an animal's true or imagined behavior. With the publication of "A
Jewish Bestiary: Fabulous Creatures from Hebraic Legend and Lore",
Mark Podwal revisits animals, both real and mythical, that have
captured the Jewish imagination through the centuries.

Originally published in 1984 and called "broad in learning and deep in
subtle humor" by the New York Times, this newly updated and expanded
edition of "A Jewish Bestiary" features new full-color renderings of
thirty-five creatures from Hebraic legend and lore. The illustrations
are accompanied by entertaining and instructive tales drawn from
biblical, talmudic, midrashic, and kabbalistic sources.

Throughout "A Jewish Bestiary", Podwal combines traditional Jewish
themes with his own distinctive style. The resulting juxtaposition of
art with history results in a delightful and enlightening bestiary for
the twenty-first century. From the ant to the ziz, herein are the
creatures that exert a special force on the Jewish fancy.

Critique: A fascinating and informative pleasure to simply browse
through one page at a time, this new and impressively illustrated
edition of "A Jewish Bestiary: Fabulous Creatures from Hebraic Legend
and Lore" is enhanced for academia and the non-specialist general
reader with an interest in the subject with a two page Selected
Bibliography. While also available for personal reading lists in a
digital book format (Kindle, $9.59), "A Jewish Bestiary: Fabulous
Creatures from Hebraic Legend and Lore" is especially and unreservedly
recommended for community, synagogue, college, and university library
Judaism and Folklore/Mythology collections

Editorial Note: Mark Podwal achieved early recognition for his
drawings on the New York Times Op-Ed page. His art is represented in
the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, the Victoria and Albert
Museum, the Israel Museum, and the Jewish Museums in Berlin, Prague,
Vienna, and New York, among other venues. He is the illustrator of a
number of books, including Hebrew Melodies, also published by Penn
State University Press.


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Stephen Hayes, Author of The Year of the Dragon
Sample or purchase The Year of the Dragon:
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