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The mythless society

Science has not fulfilled its promise, and new fiction provides no more solace than reality television. We desperately need myth again. Can Canongate's new publishing venture provide it?

By Jonathon Keats   November 2005

A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong

(Canongate, £12)

Weight by Jeanette Winterson

(Canongate, £12)

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

(Canongate, £12)

?

Who but a madman would launch a series of 100 book-length myths, as reimagined by contemporary authors, publicly committing his company to publishing several highbrow titles per season through the year 2038? The madness of Canongate publisher Jamie Byng, instigator of this epic project—simultaneously debuting in 24 countries this month—is an issue perhaps best addressed by psychologists. What the cultural critic might consider, on the other hand, is whether our society is, likewise, cracked.

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