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The Universe, the Gods, and Men: Ancient Greek Myths Told by Jean-Pierre Vernant Hardcover – September 4, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (September 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060197757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060197759
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,933,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Drawing on fond memories of regaling his grandson with "once upon a time" tales from Greek legend, acclaimed classicist Vernant recounts seven of these tales in a gentle, conversational style. Vernant takes a traditional approach as he explores the mythic foundations of the creation of the earth, the birth of the Titans, and the enduring momentum of human heritage. The casually arranged entries include readable accounts of Prometheus, Pandora, Odysseus, Dionysus, Oedipus, and other legendary figures whose narratives reveal a compelling path pertinent to our own civilization. Storytelling at its best, this brief anthology is approachable while remaining true to its sources. A rich treasury for all readers. Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Storytelling at its best … A rich treasury for all readers.” (Library Journal)

“An engorssing, stimulating and lively book.” (London Times Literary Supplement)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
I almost didn't buy this book because of the low customer reviews, but then I used the "look inside" feature and liked what I saw. I did order the book and I'm very glad I did. I teach creative writing at the college level and will recommend this book to my students. I find the tellings to be very clear and also very poetic. As a writer, I turn to myths to help me find my own stories--this book, I know, will pull many stories out of my unconscious, where they now are hidden "in the depths of the Earth; the void." I also find the author's introduction informative and useful in explaining why myths are important. I love this book.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on February 23, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This slim book reduces Greek mythology to its barest essentials. Vernant starts with the creation stories; skims through the "clash of the titans," Prometheus and Pandora, the Trojan War, Odysseus, Dionysus, Oedipus; and ends quite abruptly with Perseus and Medusa--all in 180 sparse pages. Along the way, the author strips these stories of all their depth, drama, and momentum. Entire battle scenes and plot twists are reduced to single sentences. His effort to make Greek mythology simple is unforgivably simplistic; all the excitement is thoroughly excised. Vernant has managed to achieve something I would have thought impossible: he has made Greek mythology dreadfully boring.

It's never really quite clear for whom this book was written. Much of the writing (or at least its translation) reads like excerpts from an elementary school primer. Instead of proper transitional devices, sentences repeatedly begin with "So." "So now the war of the gods is over." "And so they sail on, the fleet much reduced." "So then: Athena and Hermes help the boy with the feat he must accomplish." One-dimensional answers follow condescending questions: "How does Prometheus do it? The way it is routinely done in Greek sacrifice." "Who is Helen? She is herself the fruit of the gods' intrusions into the human world." "What does the ingenious captain do? He has got himself some beeswax." Why does Vernant write like this? I haven't a clue.

Although Vernant came up with the idea for this book when he told Greek myths as bedtime stories to his grandson, this book can't possibly be intended for children or even adolescents: these skeletal stories would enchant no one, and there isn't enough background for those unfamiliar with Greek myths to make any sense of what remains.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What the previous reviewer seems to have misunderstood is Vernant's point: that this is a book of stories to be told to one's children. Thus, a dialogue naturally begins when the child asks a question like "who is that?" Vernant presupposes only one thing: that the adult who is reading the story will fill in the details regarding the Greek myths as he or she wishes, or is asked questions about. He presupposes that the adult is already familiar with the myths, and is introducing them for the first time to his or her child. A parent obviously cannot read Bulfinch's Mythology to a child, it would be ludicrous, and so Vernant has produced a book that can be read to children for the first time, and one which relies on the parent's knowledge to fill in whatever elements that he or she desires to, or is asked to say more about. In short, it is a book for children that presupposes that the adult knows his or her Greek mythology. There is quite simply no other book for children that introduces them to the world of Greek mythology. That it presumes that the parent reading it knows more than the child does and also more than what is in the book should not come as a shock. What Vernant accomplishes here for the first time is to give children their first access to what are otherwise very complicated stories, and to let us fill in the gaps as they come up.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Vernant is a leading classical / art scholar, and has written an accessible book that reflects the latest scholarship on Greek mythology, cultic practice and how Greek society used/believed in these myths, and what they say about Greek social and political structure and threats of the time. It was one of only two assigned readings in a Greek Archaic Art course I'm auditing at Vassar College. To me, it is a worthy replacement for the old Edith Hamilton summaries of Greek gods, goddesses, etc. I think you'll enjoy how it tells stories rather than defines lists of deities, monsters, Titans, mortals.
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