We’ve posted a few times about how sometimes it is what is left out of a story, as much as what is put in, that can make it compelling, and how that void can fire the imagination. If that is a measure of how compelling a story is, that we keep thinking about it and imagining what was not explicitly told after we have finished it, then the Epic of Gilgamesh certainly qualifies. If only its omissions were more intentional.
In my literary tour of the ancient world, I've visited Iceland, Europe, the Middle East, India, and the Mediterranean, and I have plans to visit China (that will be next week's review, sort of). The perhaps obvious gaping holes in this journey are Africa and the Americas, which simply do not have the same ancient literary traditions as the other locations I've mentioned. I could be reading ancient Greek literature for the rest of the year at least, but even finding a single title authentic to the Americas (as opposed to a history of the region) was a challenge. Eventually, I stumbled across something called the Popol Vuh.
Well, I did it again. When I consulted my reading list to pick a new book to read after finishing Meditations With Cows, instead of picking a new or well-known or at least commonly approachable book that people actually would search for and by extension perhaps find my site, I picked another ancient text that only a few people have heard of and fewer decide to read. Let it never be said that I am a slave to the search engine algorithms. That being said, it does continue my tour of historic pieces of world literature (we recently reviewed The Bhagavad Gita, and The Story of Burnt Njal, checking off (roughly) India and Iceland, plus the Middle East with the Babur-Nama), and I have legitimately been interested in reading this for awhile, it being one of the few historical autobiographies from that region of the world. In truth, doing a sort of world-tour of ancient literature is proving a very fascinating exercise, and one that I would wholly recommend (as long as you have some patience).
Or, as I wanted to title this post: A Splendid Review. Unfortunately, I wouldn't go so far as to call this a splendid book. You might be starting to think that I'm just biased against nonfiction, considering that I think the majority of the nonfiction books I've reviewed on the site have all been described as something along the lines of "mediocre," but I promise there are some that I would call excellent. Chernow's biographies of Washington and Hamilton, for instance, or another splendid biography on Lincoln, or several books on theoretical astrophysics...unfortunately, I read those before I started doing book reviews on the site, and it just so happens that the nonfiction books that I've read since I started have been somewhat disappointing.