Adonis to Zorro: Oxford Dictionary of Reference & Allusion
Allusions are a colorful extension to the English language, drawing on our collective knowledge of literature, mythology, and the Bible to give us a literary shorthand for describing people, places, and events. A cunning crook is an Artful Dodger, a daydreamer is like Billy Liar, a powerful woman is a modern-day Amazon – we can suffer like Sisyphus, fail like Canute, or linger like the smile of the Cheshire Cat.
This absorbing and accessible A-Z explains the meanings of allusions in modern English, from Adonis to Zorro, Tartarus to Tarzan, and Rubens to Rambo. Fascinating to browse, the book is based on an extensive reading program that has identified the most commonly-used allusions. For the third edition all entries have been reviewed, revised, and updated to ensure the consistency of coverage of allusions and references, and to make sure all entries have at least one illustrative citation from an even wider range of source materials: from Aldous Huxley to Philip Roth, and Emily Bronte. The new edition also includes a useful bibliography to help readers explore the world of references and allusions further.
Book Title: Adonis to Zorro: Oxford Dictionary of Reference & Allusion
Author: Andrew Delahunty & Sheila Dignen
Amazon rating: 5
Reviewer: Nancy E. Miller
Actually, it starts at Abaddon, the angel of the bottomless pit, but I guess Adonis is better recognized. I truly enjoyed and plan on using this book. I found it on Amazon. The brand new book costs $39.95 but you can get used copies as low as 69 cents with shipping.
It is set up alphabetically like a dictionary but in the back there is a Thematic Index where you can go in by subject. Example: MYSTERY includes Agatha Christie, Wilkie Collins, Eleusinian mysteries, grassy knoll, Kasper Hauser, House of Usher, Mona Lisa, Edgar Allen Poe, Rosebud, Sphinx, Udolpho, Veil of Isis, X-Files.
Now let’s look at one of them, say Veil of Isis. After introducing Isis as the mother of Horus and wife of Osiris in Egyptian mythology, it goes on to describe her image and that the statement “I am all that is, has been, and shall be, and none among mortals has lifted my veil.” So to “lift the veil of Isis’ is to penetrate a great mystery.
To use this phrase in your scene might give it a certain panache but I would suggest making the meaning clear, possibly in dialogue. And what about a book named ‘The Veil of Isis’? What a great name for a mystery book!
Under the cinematic reference ‘The Force’ it begins with the explanation of what the Force is and how it fits in with the Star Wars theme. Then it generalizes it as ‘A power that seemingly enables someone to achieve something or affect’s a person’s behavior.’ As a Star Wars fan, I am good with that.
I need to go through it and take in all the entries again. The first pass was just to see what the book was about and catch whatever caught my eye. It deserves far more study and I am enthused to dig in and learn some of these terms and their usage.
So, yes, I highly recommend this book for writers. It will give you inspiration and extend your reference and allusion vocabulary and it is an interesting read.
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