2 out of 4 stars
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Hello, dear reader, and welcome to this review of Mythic Worlds and the Once You Can Believe In by Harold Toliver. Before we begin, let’s have a story, shall we?
Once upon a time, there was a lovely 19 year old who decided that what she really wanted most in the world was a degree in English Literature. She studied for years and years, sometime in that period trying and failing to read Derrida’s Of Grammatology.
Why do I bring that period of my life up?
Well, dear reader, trying to read Mythic Worlds was very much like trying to read Of Grammatology. Granted, I read the entirety of the former instead of the mere few pages of the introduction I read of the latter, of course.
In this, Toliver proposes a deconstruction of the mythology that defines our societal structure. While he does reference Judeo-Christian and Greek mythologies, it’s mostly centred on a very Western, very modern myth-building strategy as its used to justify war and conflict. In fact, Toliver builds the narrative from an examination of mythology’s role in communication up to the role it played in the war in Iraq and beyond.
Reader, I fear this is where I must tell you that this is not an easy read, nor is it light. Toliver often gets lost in the details of his own musings, choosing to philosophise and speculate with very little in the way of satisfactory evidence to support his theories. While his list of references is impressive, it feels as if he refers to the same handful of experts in every chapter. As such, the book becomes repetitive and boring after a while, making it quite a difficult work to get through.
In addition to that, it felt like much of the book could have been compressed into single chapters as they covered similar topics over a range. Dividing them into distinct sections of the text helped to keep these areas of discourse together, but in doing so, the repetition was exacerbated to a greater extent. For example, chapters four, five and six examine why people choose to believe the myths they’re fed by society, but rarely is anything new offered after chapter four.
However, I would be remiss not to point out that I don’t think this is a book for a general audience. Too much of the prose is oriented towards abstract and conceptual theories that are better expounded upon in a university setting. As such, it offers some interesting insight into the means, modes and reasons for communication and how it shapes society in a manner that would be useful to students of the social and behavioural sciences.
While Toliver’s work is hard to get into, it is nonetheless quite thorough and informative but the repetition, lack of readability on the part of a general audience and the numerous errors I found along the way force me to rate this at 2 out of 4 stars. I’ll also end here with a heavy recommendation that this be geared towards students and academics.
Mythic Worlds and the One You Can Believe In
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