Rating: 3.5 out of 5
So have you ever read any ancient myths and thought to yourself, This is some pretty crazy stuff!
Of course you have! But usually those dry textbooks discuss bestiality and cannibalism like they're just items on a grocery list. Don't you wish someone could just narrate these stories with the outlandish attitude that they deserve?
Well, Cory O'Brien is on that, bro. Founder of BetterMyths.com, O'Brien rewrites ancient myths and other tales from the modern dude's perspective in Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes (2013). The result? Hilarious!
Here's an excerpt from his retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone:
So Demeter gets real depressed
And when Demeter gets depressed
all the plants die
and everything freezes
and being alive just kind of starts to suck
because she is the goddess of like
crops and seasons and whatnot.
And see, up to this point
no one has even heard of winter
but now they are getting nothing but winter
nonstop and out of control
except actually maybe only for several months
but either way
shit is intolerable.
Despite the title, O'Brien includes myths from around the world, from Norse and Egyptian, to Mayan and Hindu.
And controversially, Judeo-Christian. Now there's absolutely no doubt that the world's most popular origin story shares similarities from the religions that came before it. But I get that some people get a little freaked out when painting God with the same brush as Zeus and Thor.
Putting all that aside, if you have even the smallest sense of humor, you'll get a kick out of this version of Genesis:
On day four God invents the sun and the moon
and the stars
which begs the question
WHERE WAS THE LIGHT COMING FROM BEFORE?
And then he's like "Oh shit, the moon.
Better go to sleep."
This dude needs an awful lot of sleep for an omnipotent dude
which may explain why wars happen.
Now if you're not impressed with these tidbits, don't worry. It was really hard to pick some blog-appropriate excerpts, since this whole book is super profane and raunchy. I especially enjoyed the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh and the secret behind Scientology.
There was also quite a twist toward the end. If you'd like to find out for yourself, by all means stop reading, but I can't review this book without mentioning it and honestly, there are worse spoilers out there (I'm looking at you, "Game of Thrones" Instagram. Close call with those comments!)
O'Brien concludes with "The Prevailing Creation Myth," aka The Big Bang. So I'm reading this with my fist metaphorically in the air as science finally gets recognized like it should...but then he ends with this:
Me, I don't see much of a difference between
Science and Religion.
First off, in order to successfully apply science
there are going to be certain things that you're
taking on faith
Although I'm placated by his assertion that he doesn't agree with people trying to unconstitutionally place Creation Science beside evolution in schools, his attempt to play referee between scientists and fundamentalists trivializes the real issues at hand.
I absolutely encourage everyone to give themselves a proper education in comparative religion, to incite skepticism and doubt, and to question the ideological status quo. I also recommend that your spirituality be based on love and acceptance of others, not hate and fear-mongering.
But that's the secular side of me talking, and my book blog is not the place for me to de-convert anybody. On one hand, I agree with O'Brien because I want the world to honor the freedom for--and from--religion.
On the other hand, I understand that this an arduous mission, and sometimes you need to stir up the pot and demand a voice...even when the majority would prefer you stay quiet. When it comes to fighting for equal rights, playing nice is not always an option!
I may be an activist, but here I'm Book Club Babe first, reviewing books so you can decide whether to check them out for yourself.My verdict? If ancient myths tickle your fancy, and you're already familiar with a large number of them, I think that you'll find Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes amusing. O'Brien's blog also covers literary tales from Shakespeare, Tolkien, Dante, and Dickens, so there's plenty more chuckles for bookworms.
In fact, I think that a blog is a better medium for these kinds of re-imaginings, since the experience of reading them in this book suffers from slight monotony. Great in the beginning, but the point is belabored once you get accustomed to the comedic style. Probably better to read in short bursts!
Thus, this book was fun to read for a while, but now I better get back to the witty humor in Catch-22!