Tales of Our Times, From Apple to Isis

Based on the BBC Radio 4 series 21st Century Mythologies
  1. Peter Conrad
  • ISBN 9780500292587
  • 23.40 x 15.30 cm
  • Hardback
  • 248pp
  • First published 2016

Building on his much-praised BBC series, Peter Conrad examines the enduring place of myth in contemporary culture and society

‘Conrad handles his examples with verve ... a seductive teller of stories about stories’ – Times Literary Supplement
‘Conrad has vast erudition and a playful style … he always has something interesting to say’– Guardian
‘Magnificent … Conrad’s writing is fuelled by an amused purview and written with a playful wit’– Dublin Review of Books

Despite our culture’s proclaimed respect for scientific reason, we are no less bedazzled and bedevilled by myth than our remote ancestors.

Roland Barthes first examined the mythical resonances of consumer products in the 1950s. Far from being demystified, consumerism has since morphed into a universal religion, its compulsory ritual of shopping essential to our economic survival. Myth has also invaded the political realm, as terrorists brandish black flags and recite theological mantras as they martyr themselves.

Peter Conrad’s exhilarating book exposes the absurdity and occasional insanity of our godforsaken, demon-haunted contemporary culture. Conrad casts his brilliant beam upon subjects from the Queen to the Kardashians, via Banksy, Nando’s, vaping, the vogue of the cronut, the mushroom-like rise of Dubai, the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the growth of the Pacific garbage patch...

In Judge Judy, he shows us a matronly Roman goddess dispensing justice with a fly swatter. In the metamorphosis of Caitlyn Jenner from Olympic athlete and paterfamilias into idealized female form, he sees parallels to the deeds of the residents of Mount Olympus themselves. Finally, after surveying advances in biomedical engineering and artificial intelligence, he asks whether we might be on the brink of a post-human world.

Peter Conrad has written more than 20 books, including How the World Was Won: The Americanization of Everywhere; Creation: Artists, Gods & Origins; At Home in Australia; and Modern Times, Modern Places: Life and Art in the Twentieth Century, all published by Thames & Hudson.

This title is also available as an eBook for Kindle, iBooks and Kobo

Also by Peter Conrad:
Modern Times, Modern Places