Book review: Adventures in unhistory

Avram Davidson may be familiar to fantasy enthusiasts for his many stories and novels.  I discovered his fantastic stories in a collection called What strange stars and skies, which has some great sci-fi and fantasy.

I’ve since learned about his various historical and fantasy novels, but more recently came across a copy of this nonfiction book.  Adventures in unhistory is sort of a mirror image of Things that never were.  Whereas Rossi’s book tends to start with facts and build fantasies out of them, Davidson begins with legends and tries to root out their factual basis.  Obviously Davidson’s approach require much more serious scholarship and erudition, but happily Davidson is usually very funny despite his scholarship. 

“One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.”–Charles Fort

Davidson repeats this mantra often, and despite some insanely circuitous routes, he manages to find plausible origins for many legends.  Here are the contents, to give an idea of the sort of topics he covers:

Where did Sindbad sail? — Who fired the phoenix? — An abundance of dragons — Who makes the mandrakes — The boy who cried werewolf — The great rough beast — Postscript on Prester John — The theft of the mulberry tree — The secret of Hyperborea — Heads I win, tails you lose — The spoor of the unicorn — What gave all those mammoths cold feet? — Bird thou wert, but art no more — The moon — The prevalence of mermaids.

He investigates everything from mythical beasts to the Great Beast Aleister Crowley; from prehistoric animals to head hunting.   Every chapter is  a self-contained adventure and  you will learn a great deal in spite of the fun.  I’ve seen some negative reviews, complaining the book is “chatty” which is certainly true but when a gifted and learned writer gets chatty, it is well worth listening.

Advertisements
Published in: on May 11, 2010 at 1:45 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags:

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://mikemonaco.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/book-review-adventures-in-unhistory/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Marvelous review, but too short, Mike. Now I want to read Adventures in Unhistory and will have to track it down.

    • Thank you, sir!
      Some more detail, then.
      Why did the Greeks claim Hyperborea — the land beyond the north wind — was warm?
      What do mermaids have to do with Kaspar Hauser?
      How did witches draw down the moon?
      Why did the Greeks claim dragons and elephants are natural enemies?
      What are descendants of Prester John doing in New York?
      The answers to these questions may be in this book.
      Maybe. Guess you’ll have to find a copy. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Fail Squad Games

Cigar Box Battle

An online resource blog for gamers and geeks focused on wargames miniatures and board games and role playing games

terribleminds: chuck wendig

Chuck Wendig: Freelance Penmonkey

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

POWER WORD KILL

Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

booksandopinions.com

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

hosercanadian

Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.

Cirsova

An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

Dagger and Brush, Daggerandbrush, dagger brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides

Fractalbat

A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

tenfootpole.org

I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.

The Rambling Roleplayer

A collection of advice, essays, and rambling rants about tabletop gaming and other geekiness. Often updated Monday-ishly.

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

inthecitiesdotcom

Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"

chieflyill

gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Metropollywog

Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.

%d bloggers like this: