cover image Mythic Imagination: Collected Short Stories

Mythic Imagination: Collected Short Stories

Joseph Campbell, intro. by David Kudler . New World Library (PGW, dist.), $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-1-60868-153-2

In his introduction, Kudler, Managing Editor of the Collected Works of Joseph Campbell, supplies what to him is a self-evident explanation as to why only one of the seven surviving pieces of Campbell's short fiction was published before: "Given that his fiction hewed to the tropes of neither the realistic nor the speculative fiction, it's no surprise that Campbell couldn't find a publisher for his stories." Most readers won't be surprised either, but for different reasons. Though Campbell had a great mind for mythology, he fumbles here with fiction that is unredeemed by portentous and overwrought prologues. Four of the stories form a "Where Moth and Rust" cycle, which "was discovered in a manuscript that comes to us, by a curious turn, from the most distant future," and depicts a "mood, which so collides (to its own great discredit) with the wholesome hopefulness of the modern Christian." That ponderous preamble doesn't make the first story, "The Forgotten Man," in which the white U.S. president wakes up as an African-American and is forced from office, any more palatable. Given the insights Campbell was capable of in his influential non-fiction, it's not surprising to learn that these subpar efforts predated his decision to concentrate on comparative mythology. Readers hoping for a reflection of his unquestioned expertise and sophistication in other areas will be disappointed. (Nov.)