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am 31. Juli 2000
I am fascinated by some of the other reviews for this book. Some criticize it for being too liberal and kowtowing to feminists. Others claim it's reactionary and a threat to women everywhere. Still others say that they hate books about mythology and so they hate this one,too (this is really weird - it would be like me giving, say, a romance novel a bad review because I don't like the genre).
This leads me to the conclusion that, since the book is obviously evoking massive projection and ad hominem attacks, it really does have some incredibly important things to say. Perhaps those on the right are stirred to anger by Bly's impassioned call to restore male depth of emotions. The academic feminist camp, amazingly (and without ever reading the book, obviously)accuses Bly of oppression simply because he states that men are human and suffer, too. This book is still a target of feminist hate speech in universities, but the criticism never focuses on the text but rather on projections surrounding Bly's persona.
The book itself (don't read it if you hate poetry and mythology! )contains a skillful blend of old world folklore and Jungian psychology aimed at restoring male modes of feeling in the world. Men who can descend into their wounds are not so dependent on women for nurturance, and thus are far more eager to see a world of powerful, independent, and connected women and men.
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am 30. Juli 2000
A lot of reviews have already been written about this book. Why add another? Well, right now, I'm reading this book for the third time in two years and that has not happened to me with any other book I've read. Even when you feel, as I did, that Bly's style of writing is at times so suggestive that you start wondering if he can fully understand and grasp the meaning of everything he is writing about himself, and even if you agree that the quoted poetry is a bit out of touch with the rest of the text, this book is a real mind-grabber.
Everytime I read it, I am bewitched by its strong images, its powerful, hypnotic rhythm and the beautiful horizon that lies ahead. The book is not very long, but it takes me several weeks to get through it. But that is because as soon as I find myself reading to 'get it over with', I close the book (and my eyes) and put it aside for a while. This "man's stuff" is hard work and you should take your time for it. Take a bath in the book and come out completely refreshed. As I come to think of it, Bly's occasional haziness probably is what makes this book so truly hypnotizing. And if you want to break the spell and get a 'how to' sequel to this book, you can always pick up the beautiful 'King, Warrior, Magician, Lover' by Moore and Gilette. They will put your feet on the ground again - at least until the next time you pick up 'Iron John', that is.
And thus, for contributing this book to a field where valid generalizations are hard to make and, consequently, "facts about men" that every man could agree on are rare, and for writing it even though every sentence could cause all-out war between the sexes (or between Christians, schoolteachers, the Society for the Promotion of Harmless Books and the Military, for that matter), this book -and its author- really deserve each of the five stars.
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am 5. Januar 2000
Poet Robert Bly takes the Brothers Grimm's fairy tale of the wild man and his foster son and turns it into an extended metaphor for an archetypal initiation into manhood, asserting that modern men are victims of a culture that fails to connect boys with older male mentors. The book is a mix of amateur pop psychology, ecumenical syncretism of the Joseph Campbell variety, and a heavy dose of '80's-era political-correctness. Together with Sam Keen's "A Fire in the Belly" it was one of the bibles of the short-lived 'Men's Movement' of the early '90's.
A 'new' male model emerged in the '70's; 'sensitive guys', who painfully discovered that male sensitivity is not valued in this (or indeed any) culture, by either men OR women. The traditional male, confident, dominating and aggressive, continues to be the desired ideal. Why do so many men come down with sensitivity, and what can be done about it?
According to Bly, in halcyon days of yore boys were initiated into the true nature of manhood either deliberately by cultural rites or incidentally by working alongside their fathers. He blames the industrial revolution for causing a disconnection ("Iron John" contains a great deal of digressive social criticism and liberal finger-wagging) and asserts that modern men are now raised by women without the necessary immediacy of bonding with older males. The book is full of symbolism and poetry conveying a bleak picture of male emotional wounds.
Bly touches on issues many men obviously find important, but he offers no real solutions beyond the vaguely-sketched initiation process that emerges from his discursive interpretation of the title fairy tale. All men are victims in his view, especially those who think they aren't! He is fearful of offending feminists and tries to placate their presumed disapproval by qualifying his call for wildness with obsequious proclamations of allegience to feminist theory. He expends a good deal of blame on traditional conservative targets, and new-agers are also targets for scorn. If you find victimization theory attractive this book may have something to offer, but it's a view not exactly symbolic of strength and empowerment.
am 23. August 2013
Noch habe ich das Buch nicht zu Ende gelesen, dennoch drängt es mich jetzt schon ein paar Anmerkungen zu notieren. Zu allererst kann ich sagen, dass ich das Buch sehr gut finde und es mir ermöglicht viele Dinge in einem neuen Licht zu sehen und es geschafft hat Licht auf viele dunkle Stellen der Vergangenheit zu werfen.
Zusätzlich ist hierbei jedoch anzumerken, dass ich die Referenzen zu Tibet und der lieben Mutter Teresa für etwas unreflektiert halte. Bei einem anderen Autor würde mich das nicht wundern, bei jemandem jedoch, der ein so großes Wissen zu haben scheint, finde ich das nicht angebracht. Bis zur Rück-Einverleibung Tibets durch die Chinesen war Tibet für den großteil der Bevölkerung nicht das Shangri La sondern die Hölle auf Erden mit einer pervertierten Form des Buddhismus und menschenverachtenden Praktiken (siehe Colin Goldner). Jeder Hinweis auf die verquere Mythologie der dortigen Ex-Theokratie ist mit besonderer Vorsicht zu genießen. Genauso ist abseits der Boulevard Presse länglich bekannt, dass die sogenannte Mutter Teresa, welche ebenfalls in positiver Sicht erwähnung im Buch findet, in wirklichkeit eine ganz andere Person war, als wie sie der Weltöffentlichkeit präsentiert wurde und wird - Stichwort: "Todesengel von Kalkutta"!
Im Grunde sind das nur zwei kleine Wehrmutstropfen für ein hervorragendes Buch, aber genau wegen jener, ansonsten hohen, Qualität stört das besonders. Vor allem bringt es mich zum Nachdenken darüber, ob andere Quellen ebenso umstritten sind.
Soeben habe ich das Buch - mal fürs Erste - zu Ende gelesen und bin wirklich sehr davon angetan. Für manche Stellen habe ich eine gefühlte Ewigkeit gebraucht und oft habe ich gegen innere Widerstände angekämpft weiterzulesen, aber nicht weil das Buch schlecht war, ganz im Gegenteil.
Die englisch-sprachige Kindle Version bedarf jedoch noch einer dringenden Korrekturlesung. Da wimmelt es nur so von Fehlern darin, die wohl von der Übertragungs Software stammen dürften, welche den Text eingelesen hat. Es ist nicht die Rede von Rechtschreibfehlern, sondern von verlorenen oder verdrehten Buchstaben. Man weiß was gemeint ist, aber es ist halt nicht besonders schön, alle paar Sätze einen Haufen dieser Fehler vorzufinden.
Das ist ein Stoff, der erstmal gut verdaut werden will, und ich werde das Buch wohl noch oft zur Hand nehmen um nachzulesen oder um es nocheinmal ganz durchzugehen.
am 21. November 1997
Thinking about this book before I bought it was much more satisfying than actually reading it. It ranks right up there with the Celestine Prophesies for muddled thinking and bogus insights. Bly makes huge generalizations and draws assumptions that just don't carry weight. He seems to have reached his conclusions from an as limited group of subjects as Freud did when he based his observations on well to do, hypersensitive women in early 20th century Vienna. In Bly's world all families are dysfunctional, all men have distant, austere fathers, all men have lost touch with their inner Wild Man. Well, the men who show up for his Men's Group seminars may share these characteristics, and presumably they are the ones this book is for, but then he should have subtitled it 'A Book about Men with Complexes.'
Joseph Campbell does a much better job of interpreting myths and fairy tales. For example, Bly will take the image of the three-legged nag that the prince is given to ride to war on, and develop a whole theory of how the lame leg is a shamed leg and how all twelve year old boys carry shame around in them. Then he goes on to postulate what a harmonious number four is, bringing in the apostles, the four directions, and who knows what else as examples, in the meantime completely ignoring the fact that three is considered a pretty significant number as well. Arbitrary is the word. The writing is surprisingly (?) muddled for a poet, but the interspersed poetry is even more sloppy: a haphazard generation of images with no real rythm or melody, let alone insight. Pass this one by. Sorry for sounding so vitriolic, but I was driven to it.
am 10. Mai 1998
Iron John is the man all men need to become. He is accepted and nurtured by men. Iron John has wronged the Wild Man and grown from the experience. Iron John is accepted and loved by women. He is allowed by his mother to escape the cyclic shame of motherly upbringing. He is announced to women as an independent based in strength who honors women's role in his life. Iron John is satisfied with himself and treats both men and women with respect because he no longer experiences the fear of inadequacy. Just as the boy tranforms to man by being wounded by older men, mother protector transforms into mother supporter and releases her son to the world. Iron John offers much to both men and women. Bly uses the mythological symbol of the Wild Man to place his readers in a receptive state to his words. Symbolism plays a role in this book such that face value reading will only reveal a muddled stream of poerty and analysis. By seeing and accepting the symbols of the mythology one can understand the deeper meaning of Bly's Iron John - Man's journey is never over because once you become a man then you are obligated to help others to proceed from boy to man. Unfortunately, I got what I needed out of Iron John in the first two chapters. The book struck me as the academics response to get into print: Take a well thoughout thesis and expand it so that no one wants to read all of it. This way the seminar paper can make money as a book. Rating: 8.
am 17. Mai 1999
Well, I remember there was a lot of feminist furor when this book came out, and women feared a backlash on the part of the newly senstive men in their lives. Nothing of the sort happened. It seems like the Men's Movement screeched to a hault some time in the mid-'90s. It was valid, if flawed (like the Women's Movement), but Robert Bly and Sam Keen and all the other Zeus-energy seeking men who had lousy relationships with their fathers should have confined such navel-contemplation to their own lives rather than try to get insecure men into the action and then try to pass it off as some kind of spirituality. You can't send men on visionquests in conference rooms because it's complete bull and you can't expect men to open up about their childhoods and cry until you recondition society to accept this kind of behavior. I'm all for restructuring the patriarchal machine that is society, but you need to do this across the board and not sell this kind of thinking to yuppie men who feel their lives are lacking somehow and then conveniently fail to address men living on the margins of society. In short, Iron John is so half-baked that many men will not admit to picking it up and browsing its pages in stores and fewer will admit to owning it. Robert Bly is a lousy poet and must have thought writing a book about men and mythology would actually bring in some money.
am 13. März 2000
Winter. I seat in the rocking chair reading this book. "Didn't you read this book already "? asks my wife. "Yes I did" I say. This is a book which contains rudimentary plot, and no understandable, for me, poetry . Yet this is one of those books that offers broad sketching while you, the reader, fill the details, invent colors and express your own creativity by freely assembling structure in which your own experiences and reflections blend with the text - as in Japanese game of "Go". One become creator of new personal account. I read one paragraph at a time, and stop. Now I reminisce . I contemplate the ceiling, and create network of associations and rejuvenate emotions from the past. I spent time in rearranging those in multidimensional units. I create book of my own which overlay printed text. I like my composition. Next paragraph : this I underline and mark the page. I will use it , or rethink it in the future - perhaps. ....... For this inseminating quality of this book I give it high respect. This is not a book for those who have no memories and no imagination.
am 13. Mai 1999
I tried to read Iron John a few years ago and found it much too heavy. However, I picked it up again last month (April 99) and I really enjoyed it. My dad is still alive at 85 and I have a son of almost 16. I had older mentors in my life, my maternal grandfather, a very old uncle and of course my Dad. I am now 47 and have mentored many people in work through the years, and I have been a sunday school teacher, a sports coach, and a youth group leader. I do believe mentoring is such an important part of 'growing up' and feel sad for those of us who have not had mentors in our lives. I can see more clearly now why some of the situations between my son and my wife happen .... I do so hope she reads Iron John. I have recommended Iron John to most of my male friends. Robert Bly makes this a very interesting read. Although,I found I had to re-read some sections to let the point sink in .... it IS quite a heavy book.
am 21. Februar 1997
If you want to know why certain scenes are written into a movie,read Iron John. For example, remember in Platoon when the lead character was wounded in the end. Do you recall where? It was his groin. Remember in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises that the lead character had a groin injury.
Iron John deals with why. Primitive cultures used to require at least one of the victorious war party make the ultimate sacrifice. These techniques where used by their cultures to reintroduce man back into civilization. Iron John deals with these motifs and more importantly why.
Any struggling screenwriter would be wise to read this book. You will learn hidden myths of our culture that will ring home as truth for your audience.
This book is a must for all writers to be.