Michael Ashkenazi is a professional writer and the author of numerous scholarly and encyclopedia articles on Japanese religion and culture. His published works include Matsuri: The Festivals of a Japanese Town, The Essence of Japanese Cuisine, and Sex, Sexuality, and the Anthropologist with Fran Markowitz.
Gr 10 Up-Ashkenazi's engaging and informative guidebook begins with 100 pages of context. He emphasizes the historical, religious, and social ground for, and provides an overview of, both Shinto and Buddhist myths. This wonderfully vivid and compact introduction tells the core stories and provides key anthropological data explaining the role(s) of myths. The author's lucid, accessible, and even humorous style lightens the impressive scholarship. His account ranges widely over history and culture, without losing its coherence or relevance to mythology. Shinto stories are linked in a comprehensive narrative; Ashkenazi also includes Ryukyu and Ainu myths. The final two-thirds of the volume is comprised of detailed alphabetical entries for major figures and concepts (with some overlap), annotated print and nonprint sources, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography of primary sources. Individual entries are much more detailed than those in Jeremy Roberts's Japanese Mythology A to Z (Facts On File, 2003) or David Leeming's A Dictionary of Asian Mythology (Oxford, 2001). Japanese art enriches the cultural context. Williams's volume follows the same format, and includes the same scholarly helps (e.g., major entries have references, further readings, and cross-references). There is no primary-sources list, but the annotated print and nonprint section is larger. The introductory essays are half the length of Ashkenazi's and avoid contested issues. Williams is not a graceful stylist. Unclear antecedents, misused words, nonparallel or awkward constructions, and other writing lapses are off-putting and sometimes obscure meaning. Despite the writer's obvious erudition, this presentation of Hindu mythology is unlikely to draw students to the field.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.