I bought this book when I was ‘in between literature’. It is not really a book by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987), but rather the written result of a series of interviews by his former student Bill Moyers that were broadcasted on TV. My Dutch translation has a title translating as “myths and consciousness”, I think the original title fits the content a lot better. Campbell might have had ideas that I do not agree with, but as the introduction to this book says:
He was, of course, criticized for dwelling on the psychological interpretation of myth, for seeming to confine the contemporary role of myth to either an ideological or therapeutic function. I am not competent to enter that debate, and leave it for others to wage. He never seemed bothered by the controversy. He just kept on seeing, opening to others a new way of seeing.
And Campbell doing what he thought he ought to be doing can easily inspire both people who follow his ideas as those who do not (entirely). And inspire is exactly what this book does. Campbell may have been a scholar, a writer of books, a teacher at universities, but this man lived myth. Already in the first minutes of the first interview, he says:
One of the problems of today is that we are hardly acquinted with the literature of the mind. We are interested in the daily news and problems of the moment.
Campbell had a fixed period of time in each day to read, both to keep up with the literature in his field, but mostly to be continuesly inspired. The way Campbell in the interviews flies from one mythology to another, from Amerindian stories to Star Wars, from daily things to the Vedas is amazing. Subjects dealt with vary from heros to goddesses to marriage. What I liked most about this book is that time and time again Campbell shows the importance of myth for our daily lives. A whole range of nice tales, anecdotes and interesting pieces of information pass, but the parts in which Campbell shows what the subject of his lifelong studies meant to him make this little book worth reading to anyone who is interested in religion and mythology.
1988 apostrophe, isbn 0385418868 (of the anchor editions)