Saturday, November 12, 2011

(S)mythology by Jeremy Tarr

fairy tale
1. A fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, usually intended for children.
2. A fictitious, highly fanciful story or explanation.

          From the very beginning (S)mythology would like you to know that it believes itself to be a fairy tale. To make sure that we know that, it even starts of as all good fairy tales do, for it would be "sacrilege" not to do so, it starts off with "Once upon a time..." and, so that's how I shall begin my review.

     Once upon a time there was a girl who didn't realize that she was lonely. She was content to live at "Number Four Danube Street Flat Four, London SW3" and she was content to be alone for she knew that, having been cursed by the Gorgons, she would turn anyone who loved her into stone.
     Sophie, no last name, enjoyed being lonely until she met the man of her dreams, the surname to her Christian name, Smyth, and although Smyth was strong and artistic and beautiful, he could not resist falling in love with Sophie. Sophie, because she loved him, could not help but go through Heaven and Hell and all that's in between to save him, although being saved may not have been the answer to their Love but all romantics have to learn the hard way that "Love is a myth and we all live in fairy tales". When she loves again she will be more adult, she will be more careful.

          This book, Jeremy Tarr's first, is delightful and enchanting. Mr. Viceroy is an excellent multi-jowled villian, the Gorgons (think Medusa and her sisters) have converted to Kabbulah (think Madonna), there's a minotaur, Posideon and Hades, a mermaid, the creator of Stonehenge (by the way, did you know it's the house a guru built, complete with a gym?), Jesus and the angels, evil nuns, a Yeti, Buddha, talking fish souls, pygmies and, of course, apparitions in the form of Smyth, his parents and Sophie (who has been swallowed whole by the Angel of Death). Let me go on, there are contracts and deeds and orphans, there's communication with a Fountain that actual knows what you desire, there's all things Cat Stevens, and a Beatles quoting secretary to Cupid. Through Sophie's journey, there are questions that compel us to delve into our Faith and what we believe is Eternity and there are questions about family and commitment and undying devotion. And, you'll ask yourself these questions while experiencing a book that will make you laugh your socks off at the wit and humor of it all. Yes, this books is funny and whimsical and full of Life.
          Like all good fairy tales we learn valuable lessons about what it means to live ("'Happiness often comes from the search for Happiness'" and "And, she lived happily ever after") and what it means to die ("There's no true definition of beauty. Except for maybe Heaven." and "'Had I not had the experiences that I had so long ago with the Afterlife, I still don't think I would fear death. However, I will hold nostalgia for Life. and I'll certainly hold nostalgia for the people in my Life.'"). And, while we can argue forever about whether this is a true fairy tale, following the definition, (and, I did with myself and am doing so now as I type this, as the narrator will argue as you read) we can't argue that Jeremy Tarr has given us a book about the most important of all virtues; Love. He has shown us what it is (there are three important types), how to give it, how to receive it and most importantly how to cherish it so it grows and is remembered. One added feature is all the beautiful drawings by Katy Smail, they kept my tiny tot entertained while I read and are full of the same whimsy and enchantment as the words on the page.
          If you are like me, this seemingly simple novel with leave you with questions about its ending, your own life and its ending, and it will make you look at "Morning Has Broken" by Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) a little differently. It will make you laugh a little about the glorious absurdity of all that it means to be alive.

Morning Has Broken Lyrics
(A Traditional Song, Lyrics by *Eleanor Farjeon)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

4 1/2 Stars

Act II kind of lags for me, but that's probably because I'm a romantic and was mourning my losses, both figuratively and literally and spent some time drowning in my melancholy.

Teacher Advisories
Sex 1/5 
There are some situations that are described. The actual sex act is not described, however, two people are in bed together at one time and it is implied that they have had sex.
Language 3/5 
There really isn't a lot of language, but the language that is used is of the powerful kind. Sometimes using words such as F*** and G**D***, even if used once are red flags for some people.
Substance Abuses 2/5
Drinking, mind-altering substances are consumed in a manner befitting a scene in Alice in Wonderland.
Violence 1/5
Um, Sophie turns those she loves into stone. She cheats Death, death gets even. She rescues her love from Hell.

Touchy Subjects
Many religious traditions are talked about, however, Tarr doesn't really say that one is better than the other. Mysticism, mythology and other view points also take center stage. Students may question their own view-points and want to talk about it.
Death and Dying
This book does not have a happy ending, but it is a wonderful and beautiful ending. Where do you go when you die? What does it mean to die? and Have I lived my life to the fullest and without regrets? are questions that might come to mind.
First loves, love in marriage, lust, abandonment, lasting love, love for our family, love for our children, I could go on and on...

How this book is used in the classroom
1] Independent Read option
2] Websites
Tarrology more clever wordsmithing with pictures
(S)mythology all about the book, ever so pretty
A wonderful review for parents from Geek Dad

Oh, and I won this book on Good Reads and, while I didn't have to write a review, it said I could if I wanted to, and, boy did I want to, this book is so much more than fun!


  1. I love "Morning has Broken!" Makes me think of my dad. Should I read this or will it ruin my happy thoughts? ;)

  2. I will first ask if you like Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth and books like it, if you do...
    then read it, as I'm sure you'll be able to see the truth in the fairytale and will enjoy some of it's rather silly situations. I didn't really see the song as having as much depth as it does until this book. I just thought it was a song to sing in 70s remembrance.


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