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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guy Goodman St.White Reviews The Epic of Gilgamesh--Epic Genre Crap (Literally)

You can't demonstrate the human condition without realism.
And there's nothing realistic about that thing in the middle of the tablet.
Good Evening. I'm Guy Goodman St.White your terribly British sounding host, and tonight we'll be delving back into the Western canon, long before Beowulf, to explore some of the roots of Western literature. I'd like to start our evening with two small disclaimers. For starters, we will only be reviewing dead religions as literature. While there is some qualitative value in examining living religious texts under literary scrutiny, I already receive enough death threats for reasons I cannot possibly fathom, and I don't want to exacerbate those uppity religious sort to be any more irrational than they already are. Don't worry though, we will only briefly study a few texts of the Ancient Middle East, and will revert quite quickly to the works of Europe.

No need to worry that we're not studying enough white voices.  Just a necessary evil.

The Epic of Gilgamesh: I'm not even sure where to begin with this one.

I'm genuinely overwhelmed. The sheer level of preposterous absurdity going on in this story has literally overwhelmed me. Gods. Demigods. Ogres. Giant bulls. Scorpion people. Precognitive psychic dream powers. A fight scene pretty much once a tablet. Huge, Earth-covering floods (which, as you know, are only achieve credulity in Judeo/Christian tradition, and become completely implausible otherwise). Immortality. In many ways it is no surprise that we had to endure an epic like Beowulf as the fountainhead of English tradition. Look at where the older tradition lies. Look at what they had to work with. This non-stop melange of genre imagery is chock full of speculative tropes and is real literature's and high art's worst nightmare.

Clearly there is nothing of literary value within The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is just another superhero versus a monster-of-the-week mash up with no redeeming qualities or meaningful themes. I haven't seen anything this god awful since my 14 year old cousin from America forced me to watch a disk of some Yank show called Supernatural. If Enkidu had been questioning his sexuality and killed by homophobic bigots, Gilgamesh had been struggling against the preconceptions of his society and raging alcoholism, and the whole thing had been set in the seedy mud brick reality of Babylon, this might have been a better story. As it is, I had to gird myself against actual physical revulsion with each new tablet. The Mesopotamian people certainly had enough real-world struggles trying to establish the patriarchy and civilize an entire world of hunter/gatherers to need to resort to fanciful tales of the supernatural. Is it any wonder the whole of Western society is not capable of determining what is actually good to read?

Thank you for joining us this evening, and please tune in next week for another edition of Speculative Fiction Sucks Balls (And Not in the Good Way) where we'll return to the British Isles and take a look at what some seriously white dead white guys have written. Good night.

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