- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: TarcherPerigee; 1 edition (March 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 039916040X
- ISBN-13: 978-0399160400
- Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 280 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology Paperback – March 5, 2013
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"Blessed with the drinking tolerance of Bacchus and the wisdom of Minerva, O’Brien has compiled some of the best of the best in the realm of sarcastic myth telling with his book Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No Bull-Shit Guide to World Mythology." --Fanboynation.com
"I was giggling by the first page and full blown LOLing by the first myth. It’s really that funny. With chapter titles like “Cronus Likes To Eat Babies“, “Abraham Is Totally Cool About Stabbing His Kid in the Face,” and “Odin Gets Construction Discounts with Bestiality,” you can’t help but want to read these retold myths, whether it be from morbid curiosity or a dire need to know what this guy could possibly be getting at with these titles." --Electricfeast.com
"O'Brien's writing is gruff, hilarious...but there's no doubt that he's thoroughly researched his topics. His candor likens to a tirade of Liz Lemon's deranged ex-boyfriend, Dennis Duffy of 30 Rock, had his skull contained a well-read brain." --Chicagoist
About the Author
Cory O’Brien is a word-wizard and technojester of the first degree and the creator of Myths Retold! (BetterMyths.com), as well as the author of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes and George Washington is Cash Money. He reads and writes mythology, science fiction, and computer code. He has camped with gypsies, juggled for food, and driven across the country in a car powered by vegetable oil. Now he lives in Chicago, where he recently graduated with an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Cory's dream is to one day travel to Mars, or at least to own a jacket made entirely of pockets.
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Definitely read it somewhere else in the house, though. Or on the subway if you don't mint people watching you giggle.
Normally I try to avoid profanity in my book reviews, but when the subtitle of the book is “a no-******* guide to world mythology”, it’s a battle already lost. I'll put in asterisks instead.
I really like this book: I opened it to refresh myself on it prior to writing this review and enjoyed it so much I re-read the entire thing. But it is absolutely not a reference book; there is no index and no bibliography and no list of books for suggested further reading.
_Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes_ is a book that is very honest about human nature. First off, there are the myths and legends themselves. Most myths and legends involve a lot of sex and death and violence and greed and pride and jealousy.
Many of the translations we’ll typically read during our school years gloss over a lot of that, but many of the original stories went into a lot more detail. For example, in the Egyptian section O’Brien has a story about Horus depositing some bodily fluids in Set's salad, and that is a pretty decent summary of one version of one of the Egyptian myths — Horus put his seed in Set’s food and when they went before the rest of the gods, Horus was able to call out for his seed and it replied from Set’s stomach, thereby showing that Horus is more powerful than Set. If you read through that last sentence and by the end of it are thinking “Wait, what just happened there? This was an actual myth they wrote down and retold???”, that seems to be where O’Brien started writing this book.
O’Brien is honest that he has inserted some non-canonical details in many of the myths, such as the disco ball used in “The Moon Is Made of Meat” which retells the Native American story of how the moon is a rabbit. However, storytellers of the past often changed around their stories too, which is why many myths exist in multiple versions. The formal tone and proper English used in many books of myths and legends is likely not as formal and proper as the myths were originally told or as the audiences originally understood them. O’Brien has put them back in more colloquial language with slang terms of the modern time (God help the scholar who runs into this book a couple hundred years from now and starts trying to figure out what is meant when O’Brien says Sekhmet was the original Thundercat, or the Norse gods are totally metal).
For all that, O’Brien’s interpretations seem to be broadly faithful to other versions of the same myths I’ve read in more formal and proper settings. The same participants get in bad together, doublecross the same people, an equal number of participants get killed or are sentenced to eternities in torment or whatever, and the same strange leaps of logic lead to many of the same consequences for all involved. Yes, Thor really did dress as a woman one time to get his hammer Mjolnir back from a giant who had stolen it and was going to keep it unless he got to marry Freyja.
So, it’s a very humorous book. The line lengths are uneven and sometimes words or phrases will be written in ALL CAPS, and while it looks disjointed it worked fairly well as I was reading it and added a subtle cadence to the stories.
O’Brien also sometimes summarizes the myths, and sometimes points out some very painful and human truths. For instance, here are the end few lines from “Hephaestus Gets ****** Around a Lot” from the Greek section, where Hephaestus has caught his wife Aphrodite having an affair with Ares and Hephaestus invites all the other Greek gods and goddesses to watch and catch Aphrodite and Ares in the act:
“and Poseidon pokes Zeus and says ‘Would you tap that?’
and Zeus says ‘Probably I already have.’
(I am not making that up.
That **** is in _The Odyssey_)
But really the joke is still on Hephaestus
because his wife is boning another man right in front of him
and even the best blacksmith cannot repair a broken relationship.”
But most of the book is like these lines mid-way through “Gilgamesh and Enkidu: Ultimate Bromance” in the Sumerian section:
“and Enkidu shows up like ‘Dude
what the **** are you doing?
WANNA BEAT THE **** OUT OF EACH OTHER INSTEAD?’
And Gilgamesh is like ‘YESSSS.’
so they punch at each other
until they get tired of gargling their own teeth
and then decide to be BFFs.
I am not a scientist but this may be why women live longer than men.”
So, loved the book, but no index or bibliography or suggested reading in a nonfiction book, so I’m still going to give it four stars. And then probably look to see if O’Brien has written anything else, because if he has I might buy it.
Also, Sarah Melville’s illustrations are awesome. They look like traditional artwork that a high school boy idly doodled on and represent the contents of the book very well.
This would have made some of my old classes subject matter much more entertaining.
O'Brien's writing is witty, funny, and his research into the subject is complete. This isn't your dry college textbook, but you will learn more with this than you would from that text, and at a fraction of the price!
If you have a teen or young (or old) adult who enjoys or needs to learn the gist of world myths, I recommend this ribald telling of world myths.
"Folk tales and myths, they've lasted for a reason. We tell them over and over because we keep finding truths in them, and we keep finding life in them." - Patrick Ness
For those looking for actual stories on world mythology presented in a clear, easy-to-read format, this is probably not for you. Instead, each scene is written to cater towards late teens or twenty-somethings (or anyone with that sense of humor). Caps lock is used excessively for humor, and there are tons of references to funny-yet-inappropriate topics. With that said, the stories are short and plenty, and each story has a moral, though nothing practical.
If you are looking for a semi-geeky, college-humor type book, then this is for you. While the sense of the myths is retained, many readers may be off-put by the way the material is presented. If you know a young adult who is in to mythology and can handle the mature themes in this book, then by all means, this is the book for them. But if you are looking for something with a bit more educational value, skip it.
O'Brien retells these myths like no one we've seen before, in a way that is not only hilarious, but also legitimately interesting. Chalked full of cursing and vaguely inappropriate, this is just what we need to make myths interesting for all people again. I never really understood myths before reading them retold by O'Brien, but I finally get and I can't stop laughing.
Seriously, buy this book. You won't regret it.
Most recent customer reviews
What a waste of 6 bucks.
Written by a bro for bros. I wish I’d have started it when I could still return it.