Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Brow Bruising Reads: The Hardest Book I have Ever Read

Adam C. Zern sounds off on a truly difficult book to read:

"Way back on November 7th of 2011 I posted a few comments about some of the most difficult books I have ever read.  I called them Brow Bruising Reads, and indeed they were tough reads for various reasons. However, I didn't share my thoughts on the single most difficult book I have ever read—The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

While completing a Screenwriting course at Valencia Community College nearly a decade ago, I participated in a class discussion about the nature of stories—why we tell them, what kind of stories exist, and why we respond to them as human beings.  Joseph Campbell's exploration of story, culture, and psychology was mentioned as one of the most significant contributions to our understanding of story and storytelling.  The well-known 'Hero's Journey' paradigm was developed by Joseph Campbell and delineated in great detail in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It sounded fascinating!   I made a decision right then to read it.  Little did I know how difficult it would be to navigate Campbell's incredibly esoteric work of profound importance.

Even after only a few pages of The Hero of Thousand Faces I realized how crushing the book could be.  I literally read the entire book with a dictionary perched close by and usually found on average 2-3 words on each page I did not understand.  You can imagine how doing so exponentially increased the amount of time it took me to finish the book.  It was the first time I could ever remember coming across words like 'vouchsafe' or 'pedagogy.'  Yet, I still use some of those words to this very day.

And that's the beauty of Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  It is in fact one of the most influential books I have ever read.  I refer to it often when discussing and pondering stories and our incessant need to tell them.  It's an incredible book, which ought to be read by every lover of stories and most especially by every storyteller.  Whether or not you agree with Campbell is irrelevant.  His insights and intellectual musings are so intriguing and enlightening they can inform every story you ever experience, regardless of the medium.  (George Lucas, for example, was influenced by Campbell's work and incorporated elements of what he learned into the Star Wars trilogy.  Familiarize yourself with the 'Hero's Journey' and re-watch Star Wars: A New Hope and you'll know what I'm talking about).

When I think of the most difficult books I have ever read, Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces is always on top.  It's a tough read, brutal at times, but extraordinarily informative.  It is a prized treasure to have read the book; it helped me appreciate stories on a level I had never considered.  For that reason alone it was definitely worth reading."

Other Topics of Interest:
Brow Bruising Reads
Page-Turners: Black Hawk Down
What You Don't Know is the Reason

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