Star.Ships: a Mythological Narrative
Enough about me... let's talk about Gordon over at Runesoup and his lovely, lovely new book Star.Ships.
I'd like to start with the book itself as a cult object. Scarlet Imprint always does a lovely job with their books (though my direct experience is with their beautiful hardbacks rather than their more expensive limited editions). Star.Ships is no different. It's a beautiful book, rich paper, great font, cover softly glowing and combining themes of sea and star. My one complaint in readability is that the indenting makes it challenging to follow the quoting. However now that I've completed the book, I suspect this may have been a deliberate choice considering the structure of the content itself.
Star.Ships is a very readable book. Its language is easy to parse and the conclusions are presented clearly. This might lead the casual reader to assume that the book is lacking in the depth that more philosophically written books might have. But that would be a mistake.
In my experience, Scarlet Imprint specializes in books that interact directly with your deeper self as you read them. It's a credit to Gordon's skill as a writer that he can keep the book so clear on a conscious level while still connecting to deep structures within the subconscious and resonating with truly ancient archetypes.
The structure of the book is fascinating and took me some time to identify. In fact, the book, while initially appearing as a basic archaeological survey is actually written as a mythology. It has all the structures of myth, including the reappearance of common mythemes, labyrinthine narrative (labyrinthine here not meaning confusing, but directive and recursive), use of archetypes, connection of disparate elements across space and time, and the "but that's a story for another day" delay of the final payoff.
Whether conscious or not, this choice is genius for a book who's central theme includes the premise that mythologies can reflect real events. It's a global survey of commonly discounted, but scientifically solid, discoveries about ancient cultures delivered in the form of a mythological narrative that takes us from our earliest ancestors, staring at the stars with both wonder and knowledge, through the high renaissance of magic and into our current time.
My time for reading being unfortunately limited, I read this book over the course of several weeks. I found myself frequently reading at night before bed and then experiencing very profound dreams when I fell asleep. The book warrants reading as a sacred text and narrative rather than a survey or academic review. I look forward to diving deeper into the stars (to appropriately mix metaphors) on my next reading.
I leave you with the following, not a typical end for a typical book review, but one, I think, appropriate for this book:
The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;
and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;
and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke