Leon Garfield Shulamith Oppenheim - Essay

Shulamith Oppenheim

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"There is no doubt about it," wrote Thomas Mann in 1936, "the moment when the story-teller acquires the mythical way of looking at things … that moment marks a beginning in his life." And with this gem of a book ["The Golden Shadow"] to back me up, I would add: the moment the listener, in this case the young adult reader, is confronted with such a story-teller, this moment must mark a beginning of a deeper insight into the dark recesses of man's fantasy life.

Is this saying a great deal? I mean to. One should not underestimate the literary gift of a thoroughly successful work, one that is sure to influence the inner life of every child and adult who reads it.

The original story-tellers here already worked with myth. But the book would not be what it is, a re-creation of the Heracles legend that makes us feel witness to its birth, were Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen themselves not endowed with the mythical perspective. In the hands of those less skilled and less sensitive, such a re-creation would be hubris.

Here time flows. The tales are stunningly interwoven. And like a true poem, time flows in the round. (p. 8)

Shulamith Oppenheim, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 3, 1974.