Sunday, 14 January 2018

Book of the Month: Mythos by Stephen Fry


Anyone who knows me will either know or not be surprised that I get a bit fan-girlish about Stephen Fry.  I’m not particular prone to having heroes as I know all humans are fallible and if we put someone on a pedestal eventually they will fall off, so I will not put Stephen Fry on a pedestal. There may be aspects of his character I don’t care for or opinions that he holds with which I do not agree, but it’s probably as safe to hold him in esteem as it is to hold anyone.  He may not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like listening to or reading someone who is well educated and knowledgeable and knows what he knows and what he doesn’t, and of course a very British sense of humour then you probably appreciate Stephen Fry.  

Astonishingly to me, not everyone is a fan!

My sweetie gave me Fry’s latest book for Christmas and it is probably everything I love in a book, entertaining, clever and yet easy to read, full of information and asides, witty and written in a style that suggests Stephen Fry is just sitting around your dinner table telling stories, which is probably as close to a fantasy for me as anything is. 

Since I won’t be inviting Stephen Fry to dinner anytime soon, and I’d probably become completely tongue-tied if I ever met him, convinced that my vastly inferior intellect would instantly be revealed if I spoke, I will just content myself to enjoy his books, and in particular Mythos.

It’s a retelling of Greek mythology, told exactly as one would imagine a knowledgeable uncle might tell stories to a precociously intelligent child. Although my metaphor breaks down if we assume that uncle would censor the naughty bits. As the reader, I'm aware I am not as bright, educated or knowledgeable as the author but his style is never patronising.  Even as much as the actual stories and Fry’s style of telling them, I enjoyed all the fascinating notes on the words derived from these myths, now abundant in our everyday language.  These are usually explained in footnotes at the bottom of the page but never feel intrusive or ruin the flow of the stories.  You don’t have to read them, but I highly recommend it.

 I'm sure there are scholars who would complain the book is incomplete, and I don't think it is intended to be scholarly at all as there is no analysis offered. It's for entertainment purposes, either to introduce people to Greek myth or a reminder to revisit them.   It's not meant for children though most parents I know would consider it fine for teenagers.  Fairy tales and mythology often come to us in watered-down, sanitized and de-sexed versions.  In Fry's book we are given these myths without any attempt to hide the sexual aspects of the story, and yet with that typical British understated humour.   

I've read a variety of reviews on the book, both by paid reviewers and contributors to Goodreads.  As with anything, there are good reviews and bad, some people love it and some do not.  In my opinion, the reviewers I read who did not like it also did not understand its purpose and at least one clearly is not a fan of Fry in general, calling him 'effortlessly snobbish'. Given her review I am inclined to think she didn't even read it.  Count me as one who loved it.  

1 comment:

  1. I am so totally bookmarking this!I love books about myths and legends and Stephen Fry is let's face it, a colorful character! I completely agree that putting people on a pedestal is not a very smart thing to do. I've done it and I have been burned by it, so yeah!


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