Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Buy the paperback

The Odyssey
by Homer

Synopsis:
Robert Fagles's translation is a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendering of Homer's Odyssey, the most accessible and enthralling epic of classical Greece. Fagles captures the rapid and direct language of the original Greek, while telling the story of Odysseus in lyrics that ring with a clear, energetic voice. The story itself has never seemed more dynamic, the action more compelling, nor the descriptions so brilliant in detail. It is often said that every age demands its own translation of the classics. Fagles's work is a triumph because he has not merely provided a contemporary version of Homer's classic poem, but has located the right language for the timeless character of this great tale. Fagles brings the Odyssey so near, one wonders if the Hollywood adaption can be far behind. This is a terrific book. 14 14 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/03/1998 9:43:36 PM 59 0 "I sprang for the audio version of Fagel's translation, read by Ian McKellan of Richard III fame, and it was worth every damned penny. This was made to be read aloud. I'm listening in the car and at the gym, and when I should be working. My two favorite out-takes so far:

Helen (entertaining Telemachus and crew, and explaining her role in the Trojan War): ""I was such a slut!""

and, various enthusiastic imbibers around old Nestor's table:

""Tear the tongues from the prisoners!"" referring to the process of uncorking wine bottles (or the 12th century B.C.E. equivalent).

This is a beautiful, beautiful tale, beautifully told and read. What a great choice. If you've been holding back, thinking this one might be dull, abandon your restraint and dive in.

Dick
" 14 64 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/03/1998 11:28:02 PM 59 0 "I am on Book 17 of The Iliad and planning to join you soon on The Odyssey.

One of the pleasures of The Iliad like The Odyssey is indeed a contemporary zest for sensationalism:

""There -- quick Oilean Ajax rushed Cleobulus,
took him alive, stumbling blind in the rout
but took his life at once, snapped his strength
with a sword the hewed his neckbone-- up to the hilt
so the whole blade ran hot with blood, and red death
came flooding down his eyes, and the strong force of fate.""

Yet there is also a great transcendent feeling to many of the passages as the heroes struggle against their fates:

""And all in an onrush dark as autumn days
when the whole earth flattens black beneath a gale
when Zeus flings down his pelting, punishing rains,
up in arms, furious, storming against those men
who brawl in the courts and render crooked judgements,
men who throw all rights to the winds with no regard
for the vengeful eyes of the gods -- so all their rivers
crest into flood spate, ravines overflowing cut the hilltops
off into lonely islands, the roaring flood tide rolling down
to the storm-torn sea, headlong down from the foot hills
washes away the good plowed work of men --
Rampaging so.
the grasping Trojan war-teams hurtled on.
" 14 41 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/04/1998 8:06:33 PM 58 0 "Dick and Jim,
I am definitely joining in on this one, but I am still recovering from the weekend visit of a college friend I hadn't seen in 25 years.
Good suggestion on the audio, Dick. Listening to Othello on tape made all of the difference to me.

Ann " 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/07/1998 4:09:06 PM 55 0 "I am about half-way through The Odyssey and am wondering if it is this Fagles translation that gives it such a zest. I remember reading it, or parts of it, in college and don't recall feeling like this about it...maybe it's Fagles plus age.

In any case, I'm sort of amazed at the amount of sexuality and violence involved in it. No wonder there have been so many attempts at movies! And, yet, as Jim and Dick have said, the language and imagery are pretty incredible. When I started the book, I read bits of it aloud to myself to bring it home. Now, I find that I'm usually too involved in the story to do that. The women, too, are pretty interesting. I noticed when I skimmed the introduction that there are supposed to be more women in The Odyssey than The Iliad and that they have more integral parts. I too was pulled up short by Helen's comment that Dick quoted. And, I love this Calypso who ""forces"" Odysseus to have sex with her ""In the nights, true, he'd sleep with her in the arching cave-he had no choice-unwilling lover alongside lover all too willing."" And, she's always dressing herself (particularly when he is leaving) in a ""...loose, glistening robe, filmy, a joy to the eye....""

I would never have chosen to read this on my own, folks. And, it's been quite a pleasant surprise.

Barb " 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/10/1998 11:56:15 AM 63 0 "And, to make sure you all don't think that I'm a total sex and violence junkie, I'll share some of the poetry with you. I love this imagery. It describes the scene when the Phaecians are taking Odysseus home to Ithaca:

And the ship like a four-horse team careering down the plain,
all breaking as one with the whiplash cracking smartly,
leaping with hoofs high to run the course in no time--
so the stern hove high and plunged with the seething rollers
crashing dark in her wake as on she surged unwavering,
never flagging, no, not even a daring hawk,
the quickest thing on wings, could keep her pace
as on she ran, cutting the swells at top speed,
bearing a man endowed with the gods' own wisdom,
one who had suffered twenty years of torment, sick at heart,
cleaving his way through wars of men and pounding waves at sea
but now he slept in peace, the memory of his of his struggles laid to rest.
And then, that hour the star rose up,
the clearest, brightest star, that always heralds
the new born light of day, the deep-sea-going ship
made landfall on the island...Ithaca, at last.

""And then, that hour"" should be indented quite a bit, but I don't remember the HTML command to do that.

And, one more observation. I'm sort of enjoying these gods. They were always fun to read about when I was younger. However, now I find myself fascinated by the simplicity of such a system. Wouldn't it be kind of nice if it was all that concrete? Of course, they are such violent, jealous types sometimes. But, it sure did pay to have Athena on your side!

Barb
" 14 67 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/10/1998 2:33:59 PM 64 0 "Barb,

Thanks for that quote. Very enjoyable.
I must say that I never regarded you as a total sex and violence junkie. Not even close. I must be asleep at the switch!

Robt
" 14 41 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/10/1998 8:03:19 PM 64 0 "I finally had a chance this weekend to delve into the ODYSSEY. I was able to find the set of tapes that Dick mentioned at the library and listened to the first book on tape while I read along, but, enjoyable as the tapes are, I decided I could make faster progress if I dispensed with them. The advantage to listening to Othello on tape was that it helped me understand the text so much better. This really isn't a problem with Fagles' translation because he uses modern, and very clear English. Moreover, even I, with my tin ear for poetry, can appreciate its beauty. Thanks to those who pushed this translation. (Speaking of whom, where the heck are you, Marty?)

Barb, I stumbled on a high school copy of Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY. This really helped refresh my memory of the Trojan war and Athena's role as a champion of the Greeks (When the Trojan prince Paris had to choose the most beautiful goddess, he rejected her and Zeus's wife Hera in favor of Aphrodite).His prize was Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, who, as chance would have it, was unfortunately married to Menelaus, whom Telemachus visited early in his journey.

This whole issue of the gods' constant intervention in the lives of humans really fascinates me. What a different world view! And, of course, this approach really absolves the individual of personal responsibility. Helen refers to her past self as a ""shameless whore"" (p. 129, line 162). But then later, she blames Aphrodite for the ""madness"" the godess sent her which caused her to run off with Paris (p. 132, line 295). Nice out, eh? Menelaus seems to have forgiven her everything, including the Trojan War. But then, she was Zeus's daughter and still incredibly beautiful, so perhaps allowances were in order.

The gods do seem very petty and childlike, don't they? Of course, if they were distant, obscure beings who followed a hands off policy, they wouldn't be nearly as much fun to read about. I am really curious about how seriously people of Homer's time believed in the whole mythology.

Sometimes the Homeric world seems very far away, but most of the time I can relate very easily to it. For example, when Penelope discovers that Telemachus has secretly left on a dangerous journey I can understand exactly how she feels. Motherhood really hasn't changed that much over the centuries.

I am having fun with this book. Barb, I think it was you who mentioned what an important role women play in this story. I can't help but like that aspect too.

Ann " 14 64 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/10/1998 10:00:00 PM 64 0 "The notion of competing gods rather neatly handles the question of why bad things happen to good people. Blaming the gods for your faults doesn't always work, though. In The Iliad we actually have some of the heroes fighting directly against the gods. There's a difference between having a fate and accepting your fate. The real heroes never give in.
" 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/11/1998 10:37:49 AM 57 0 "Why, thank you for your confidence, Robert. My family, the action movie lovers, would agree with you...I'm always trying to slip out of watching another movie punctuated by fight scenes.

Isn't it interesting though how timeless these elements are? In order to engage the interest of his listeners, Homer had to make it a really good story. The action is absolutely page-turning, the sexuality is such that you can feel it and the emotion is something that we all relate to hundreds and hundreds of years later. And, yet, he also told it with this beautiful poetry which is lyrical and yet tells the story in a surprisingly simple way (at least, as Fagles translates it).

When I was discovering Tolstoy, I remarked to my brother that I was fascinated that T was able to communicate very late 20th century observations and emotions so well.
He wrote back to me that he'd found this commonality of motivations, emotions, etc. communicated as far back as the ancient Greeks. Though he liked Tolstoy, he wasn't nearly as amazed by that facet of him as I was. Now, I understand what he meant.

And, Ann, I do try to lure him (my brother, Bruce) back at intervals. He's always interested in our reading lists, but gets so absorbed in his own reading priorities that he doesn't want to be diverted. Lately, he's been reading a number of authors that interest his son who is in the writing program at Brown. They are usually names I haven't heard of and want to read, but I don't want to take time away from our reading here.

Barb
" 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/11/1998 10:56:49 AM 59 0 "Ann, I think I am going to look for that recording of The Odyssey just to supplement my reading of it. I really would like to hear it done especially since it sounds like an excellent production, but I think I need to do the print version to get be able to go back and re-read, etc. I'm the original lover of books on tape, but I get frustrated at my inability to rewind and find what I want.

Please continue to supplement with information about Greek history and mythology, everyone. Some of this is coming back to me as I read but it is very sketchy.

And, Jim, I love your comment about the real heroes never giving up. It's amazing to think that our human ego is such that we might try to fight the gods...and, yet, I think I see instances of that every day.

Are you now reading The Odyssey, Jim? I'm going to be very interested in your thoughts regarding the comparison of the two books. Now, that I have had this gratifying surprise of finding that I like The Odyssey so much, I am wondering if I should try The Iliad. But, it sounds like the latter is more consistently focused on war and action which might be less fascinating to me (god, I hate how gender stereotyped that sounds, but there it is). I really like the blend of everything in The Odyssey. I also think that I would need to wait until next summer. I enjoy this the most when I have long blocks of time to flow with it.

Barb
" 14 41 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/11/1998 6:41:15 PM 55 0 "Jim,
This whole idea of your life being predetermined by your ""fate"" is one that interests me very much, and it is very prevelant in the ODYSSEY. We often forget that this was the prevailing assumption until very recently in human history.

You mentioned some of the humans in the ILIAD struggling against the gods, which to me is akin to refusing to accept fate. I haven't looked at THE ILIAD since high school, and I can't remember much of it. Did any of the humans you are thinking of imagine that they could somehow escape their fate and win against the god? I would have to agree with you that it is indeed heroic to oppose an immortal.

Barb, I was curious why Poseidon, and even Athena, turned against the Greeks at the end of the Trojan War and caused them so much grief. According to Hamilton, when the Greeks finally captured Troy they forgot what was due the gods and angered them horribly. If you remember from the ODYSSEY, there seemed to be very exact rituals which humans had to follow or risk bringing down the wrath of the gods. (Why do you suppose the gods were so fond of the thigh bones and tongues of the sacrificial victims anyway??)
The Greeks also ""dared to lay violent hands on"" Cassandra, one of the King of Troy's daughters, who had taken refuge in Athena's temple and was clinging to her statue. Athena went to Poseidon, who I think was her uncle, and asked him for help in punishing the Greeks. Since Poseidon was the god of the sea, this boded very ill for the Greeks on their return voyage home.

Cassandra was a very interesting figure in her own right. Apollo loved her and gave her the gift of seeing into the future. Later, when she rejected him, he punished her. A god can't rescind a gift once he gives it, so he let her keep her ability to see into the future. He just made sure that no one would ever believe her prophecies. (Those Greeks had quite a sense of irony, didn't they?)

Ruth, I liked your quotes. The one about ""single is the race of god and man"" was almost literally true, since so many of the gods and goddesses had affairs with humans. Calypso was even willing to marry Odysseus and make him immortal, and he rejected it all to return to his faithful wife -sigh, what a guy. (Of course, he and Calypso did manage to bed down one more time before he left -- duty I guess). That quote about the Greeks making gods of their humans and humans out of their gods seems to describe the situation perfectly.

Ann " 14 64 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/11/1998 8:58:46 PM 58 0 "I am almost done with The Iliad and should be joining you soon. The Iliad is nearly non-stop violence with graphic descriptions of where the spear pierced the spleen and what the blood looked like. It has many great moments like the description of a pictorial shield made for Achilles. The description goes on for several pages and sounds like a summary of what life is.

As for heroes fighting the gods, they definitely know what they are doing. They don't expect to kill a god, but sometimes they wound one. The idea is not so much to escape fate as it is to face it bravely.
" 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/14/1998 8:51:11 AM 57 0 "How does Odysseus get Athena back on his side again? Did I miss this at the beginning of The Odyssey? Or, does it happen at the end of The Iliad?

And, Jim, it sounds like The Odyssey may be more to my liking.

Barb
" 14 64 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/14/1998 10:21:20 PM 58 0 "I thought that Athena was always on the side of the Acheans -- Athens, after all. I'm just starting on The Odyssey so maybe I've missed the falling out.

On The Iliad's behalf, I would say that it is a great story of people engaged in heroic struggle. In spite of all the gore, Homer never lets you forget that these are real people with families and hopes that are never to be realized. There's no cartoon violence here.

The book ends not with a victory but with two funerals. If there is a moral to the tale it might be in the words that Achilles says to Priam, the King of Troy whose sons Achilles killed:

Let us put our griefs to rest in our own hearts,
rake them up no more, raw as we are with mournings.
What good's to be won from tears that chill the spirit?
So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men
live on to bear such torments -- the gods live free of such sorrows.
" 14 25 The Odessey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/15/1998 9:50:12 AM 59 0 "Thank you, Jim. That was good for me to hear. I may be interested in tackling The Iliad next summer after all.

Barb
" 14 41 The Odyssey 08/27/1998 10:52:18 PM 55 0 "Dick,
Yeah, it helps if I think about them as the vultures of the press that surrounded Diana. The whole Clinton affair just disgusts me every which way I turn, so that visualization doesn't really do it for me. The only one coming out of that mess with any semblance of dignity is Hillary, and I liked her to begin with.

Barb,
I had that feeling at the end too that this brutality was really difficult to relate to in the 20th century, but then I thought of some of those bloody action adventure films that I avoid watching and some of the terrible atrocities that have been committed in times of modern wars (Mei Lai - sp????), and I decided maybe mankind hasn't changed so much after all.

Ruth,
I haven't read the introduction yet. That's interesting about the stock phrases being used for purposes of meter. My son is reading
a translation of the ILIAD by Latimore for his English class. He complains that it's difficult to understand. I wish that they could read the Fagles version. I've been impressed with his translation of THE ODYSSEY. It seems to be written in a very free form. What do you think of it as poetry?

I am enjoying this book for its historical insights as much as anything else, although it is also a grand adventure story.

Ann




" 14 38 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/11/1998 1:00:56 AM 68 0 "Ann, I have read somewhere the comment that the ancient Greeks, with their emphasis on humanistic values, made their men like gods and their gods like men.

And there's a quote from Pindar that says ""Single is the race, single, of men and gods, from a single mother we both draw breath.""

Goes a ways to explain the behavior of both, doesn't it?

Ruth


" 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/16/1998 6:27:38 AM 62 0 "I hope everyone has a chance to catch the movie Helen of Troy which showed on AMC last night. Fat middle aged men in skirts uttering lines from the immortal Homer like ""There's Troy, Agamemnon. Let's attack.""
" 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/16/1998 9:18:38 AM 62 0 "What would you make of the notion that The Odyssey is not so much a story about Odysseus' search for home as it as about Telemachus' search for his father and the idealized past his father represents? It seems to me that this may have been what Joyce saw when he took the story as the basis for Ulysses.
" 14 25 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/16/1998 1:04:22 PM 62 0 "I would certainly see the emphasis on Telemarchus' search to be as viable a theme as any other, Jim. For the first half (am I right?), it seems to me that we only know Odysseus through what others are telling Telemarchus...so that we discover right along with him. There is a middle part in which we experience what Odysseus experiences. Then, at the end, the story is joined. I haven't read Joyce's Ulysses so I can't comment on that.

What do you think of Fagles' translation?
I have a very literary on-line young friend who says that he found Fagles' translation boring and went back to Fitzgerald's (at least, I think that was the translator's name he mentioned). This is a person who loves puzzling out the word meanings in old English as well, a past-time I don't share, but I can't imagine anyone finding this boring. Of course, there is also some youthful arrogance in that comment, I suspect.

I was very interested in Fagles' translator's notes at the end of The Odyssey, by the way. I don't think I realized how much latitude could be taken. I've always been interested in how poetry could be translated without significant input from the translator...and doing it from the ancient Greek must make that even more likely.

And, I was also interested in Fagles' comments on Odysseus. I was struck throughout the story by how imperfect a character he was by our heroic standards. The strength and daring were all there, but he was also often foolish as when he taunted the cylops. And, of course, there is also that incredible bloodthirsty quality. Fagles' comments on this are as follows:

""Odysseus, the virtuoso of sometimes doubtful virtue, is short on 'character' in the sense of habitual goodness but long on character as John Crowe Ransom has described 'the Shakespearean, modern, passionately cherished, almost religious sense of the total individuality of a person who is rich in vivid yet contingent traits, even physical traits, that are not ethical at all'.""

Is this a guy who could be elected President in the year 2000?

I have finished The Odyssey but found this to be one of those books that makes me want to read about it when I'm done.
The Knox introduction is much more interesting now that I've read the book.

Barb
" 14 41 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/16/1998 8:28:20 PM 63 0 "Jim and Barb,
Thanks for the great notes. I spent the entire weekend digging in my garden --why oh why did I pay someone to dig it up?? I definitely bit off more than I could chew on this landscaping project, especially since the soil here is sticky clay and I have to add ingredients to it before I can plant anything.

Back to the Odyssey. Barb, my information on Athena's anger at the Greeks was taken from Edith Hamilton's MYTHOLOGY. Jim says it isn't discussed in the ILIAD. Hamilton combines multiple sources into one coherent story. She just says that after Odysseus had suffered for 10 years, all of the gods except for Poseidon thought that he had had enough. She mentions that Odysseus had previously been a favorite of Athena because she loved his wiley mind. If I remember correctly, the Cyclops was the son of Poseidon, so that gruesome incident didn't do anything to endear him to the god of the sea and earthquakes.

I thought that quote from Fagles about Odysseus's personality was interesting. I'll have to keep it in mind as I read further. You know, when the Trojan War started, Odysseus tried to escape participating by pretending he was crazy. He was plowing his field, sowing salt instead of seed, when the messenger from the Greek army arrived. However, his sanity was proved when the messenger threw his little son into his path and Odysseus immediately changed his course. You gotta like a guy like that, don't you?
He had enough common sense to try to escape a foolish war, yet he fought heroically after he was drafted.

Jim, do you see any difference in tone between the ILIAD and the ODYSSEY? Does it seem apparent that they are written by the same man? I guess there are theories that these poems had multiple authors.

Ann
" 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/16/1998 9:11:09 PM 61 0 "I'm only about 4 books into The Odyssey, so all of my opinions are subject to change.

The major difference that I notice, so far, is that there are a lot more parties and a lot fewer fights. The Iliad also seems to have many fewer fantastic characters.

Where they both written by the same person? Well, the translation certainly was.

I do like Fagles as opposed to Lattimore, the only other translation I know. It seems much more direct.

In The Iliad Fagles writes:

""So by the ship the other lords of Achaea's armies
slept all night long, overcome by gentle sleep ...
But not the great field marshal Agamemnon --
the sweet embrace of sleep could not hold him:
his mind kept churning, seething., Like Zeus's bolts
when the lord of bright-haired Hera flashes lightning,
threatening torrential rain or pelting hail
or snow when a blizzard drifts on fields --""

Lattimore's version of the same lines reads:

""Now beside their ships the other great men of the Achaians
slept night long, with the soft bondage of slumber upon them;
but the son of Atreus, Agamemnon, shepherd of the people,
was held by no sweet sleep as he pondered deeply within him;
As when the lord of Hera, the lovely-haired flashes his lightning
as he brings a great rainstorm, or a hail incessant,
or a blizzard, at such time when the snowfall scatters on the ploughlands.""

For my taste, Lattimore is just a little arch.
" 14 25 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/17/1998 9:40:55 AM 61 0 "Ann,
I don't envy you your landscaping job. We've done very little to our's. I'm not sure it was ever pruned in the six years since the house was built, so we did have someone out to take it all back to where it should be...hopefully, I can keep up with that now. Sometimes, I think I don't take on big enough projects though...and then nothing remarkable gets done.

I had the feeling throughout my reading of The Odyssey that all of the gods had been angry or at least exasperated with Odysseus, perhaps even Athena to a lesser extent. I just never spotted the reason.
However, I did understand Poseidon's anger. The Cyclops specifically tells Odysseus that his father, Poseidon, will have revenge when O is taunting him as he is leaving. That incident seemed so strange to me...it doesn't seem like a wiley mind would be so foolish. Of course, watching your friends be eaten just might rattle you into foolish behavior.

And, yes Ann, I love that Odysseus was trying to avoid going to war. Thanks for letting me know that tidbit. I had previously pictured him as eager to be off to the adventure.

Jim's comment about the awful Helen of Troy movie made me wonder. Has anyone made a good movie of any part of this story? I keep remembering ones in which they tried to use special effects to convey the fantastic parts and I seem to remember a dubbed, foreign film, but no titles and no excellence.

Barb


" 14 41 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/18/1998 8:49:23 PM 55 0 "Jim,
I definitely prefer the Fagles translation. It flows much better and is far easier to read. Of course, I have no idea how closely it follows the original Greek, but I doubt if Homer's original readers/listeners had to try to puzzle out the meaning, so I suspect it is closer to the original in spirit.

Barb,
We are having several days of over 90 degree heat, so I am taking a break from the planting. I finished up THE REAL LIFE OF SEBASTIAN KNIGHT for CR (it was my suggestion), and I am now ready to return to THE ODYSSEY. Wasn't there a TV special with Armand Assante on THE ODYSSEY last year? I didn't catch it, but I thought I saw it advertised.

Ann
" 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/19/1998 8:11:10 AM 53 0 "My new favorite lines from The Odyssey:

""Whom do you know most saddled down with sorrow?
They are the one I'd equal grief for grief.
And I could tell a tale of still more hardship,
all I've suffered, thanks to the gods' will.
But despite my misery, let me finish dinner.""

In other words, life's hard. Let's order pizza. Words to live by.

I notice somewhere in the notes that some one called this the ""eatingest of epics.""
" 14 14 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/20/1998 11:55:59 PM 52 0 "Today's events in Afghanistan and Sudan made me ever more mindful of Homer: not since the Trojan War have so many people died because of a casual blow-job.

Dick
" 14 25 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/21/1998 8:36:36 AM 50 0 "Hmmm....did I miss a graphic detail in The Odyssey or maybe I should read the The Iliad sooner than I had planned?

Barb
" 14 29 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/21/1998 7:29:50 PM 51 0 "Richard:

Glad you're back, and with your usual flair. But didn't you consider that CR might be banned because it prefers the trenchant before the family value?

AVE,

Pres
" 14 14 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/21/1998 9:36:59 PM 52 0 "Pres: I probably should have used some sort of euphemism, but, frankly, euphemisms seem to have gotten out of hand in this particular situation (although not much else appears to be out of hand). I thought calling a ****-*** a ****-*** would promote a charmingly candid atmosphere of sexual spontaneity. And, Barbara: you didn't miss anything in The Odyssey that I know of. I was simply reading between the lines, as well as relying on my knowledge of the erotic art of ancient civilizations (rough rule of thumb: if a book full of dirty pictures costs more than $50 and the dirty pictures are at least 100 years old, you probably are looking at ""art"" rather than ""porn""). Based on that art, plus my perfervid imagination, I concluded that Helen and Paris had it on every which way, including the 'Presidential Way'. And remember: it was Helen's face that launched a thousand ships.

Dick, who is quite a conventional fellow in the privacy of his own home
" 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/23/1998 11:44:15 PM 51 0 "I've gotten to the point in The Odyssey where the Phaeacians are punished for being generous to Odysseus.

It suddenly struck me how different the Greek gods are from the Judeo-Christian one. Those of us in the Judeo-Christian tradition have always assumed that God is a force for morality and may actually ""love"" us. The Greeks have no such assumptions.

Their gods are every bit as powerful as the Judeo-Christian God, but they are extraordinarily immoral and selfish. Their favor for individuals comes and goes, and men make offerings to them as a way to gain favor, not because they actually ""love"" the gods.

What does this viewpoint about the gods do to the way you view life? Doesn't it make morality that much more heroic?
" 14 41 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/24/1998 5:53:25 PM 52 0 "Interesting comments, Jim. I think that the Greeks viewed life as something much more unpredictable and irrational than we do. Hence they explained events by the arbitrary whims of the gods. I imagine no Greek child ever got by with complaining, ""it's just not fair."" In fact, that expectation would probably be very foreign to them. Maybe this world view also resulted in fewer guilt complexes. That would be an advantage.

Yes, I agree that under these circumstances it is more heroic to be moral since this worldview doesn't preclude your being punished even when you do everything right.

I was interested in the Greek view of the afterlife. They believed that you continue to exist after death, but the ""good"" people in the underworld didn't seemed to be getting much enjoyment out of it. One part that I found very touching was Odysseus's horrible grief when he was unable to embrace his dead mother's spirit.The men in this epic seem much more openly emotional that present day American men. There are constant references to men sobbing. I find that open expression of emotion kind of refreshing.

I have reached the part where Odysseus has finally made it home and is about ready to give the boot to those horrendous house guests. I like Penelope. Apparently, even very wealthy and high ranking women like Penelope and Helen were expected to weave cloth. Women seem to have been judged by the quality of their weaving, just as men were judged by their prowess in battle. I have just got to the part where Odysseus is about to be reunited with Penelope. This seems to be a very wise family. Penelope is described as discrete, shrewd, thoughtful, cautious, sensible, reserved, and having a refined and steady mind. Her son is poised, thoughtful and canny (pretty good for a kid; wish I could say the same about mine--on the other hand, I am not in the same category as Penelope). Odysseus is a little trickier, and is described as crafty, cunning and wry. Homer seems to have prized intelligence at any rate.

Ann " 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/24/1998 11:34:42 PM 48 0 "Ann, let me get this straight. The civilization which gave us Oedipus had fewer guilt complexes than we do? I'm going to have to think about this for a while.

Meanwhile, get back to your weaving, and I'll work on my archery.
" 14 25 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/25/1998 8:10:05 AM 48 0 "Great observation about morality under the gods, Jim. They often seemed like adolescents with super powers and, at other times, like angry old men and women. There didn't seem to me to be a role model for morality as we're supposed to have received in Christianity. Then again, I suppose it brings the whole question of what morality is into play.

Penelope was puzzling to me in the beginning, Ann. When the suitors complained about her indiscriminate flirting with everyone and coyness, I couldn't understand what was going on. Then, I realized that the culture was the cause of this. She didn't seem to have the option of remaining a widow for the rest of her life. If Odysseus was dead, she was obligated to choose someone else. And, the land and goods were either the new husband's or the son's, if he was able to fight for all of it or a portion. When I realized that this was her dilemma, I found her to be at least as ""wiley"" as Odysseus in her own baliwick.

As to guilt, good point about Oedipus, Jim. However, I don't see much evidence of guilt in The Odyssey. Odysseus cries because he can't get home, but he doesn't seem to suffer guilt over leaving his family alone for all of those years, sleeping with Calypso, etc. The assumption is that this was all unavoidable. However, I think, in the 90's, that we would have found a way to feel guilty about it.

Barb
" 14 41 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/25/1998 8:58:43 PM 47 0 "I see you're hitting some bulls eyes there, Jim. -G-

You have a good point, but for the sake of argument, let's continue discussing this guilt problem a bit. After all, isn't the Oedipus complex a 20th century construct?
Oedipus and his fellow Greeks seem to have taken it for granted that he had to be punished for his transgressions, but I'm not so sure he felt that it was his fault that he unwittingly murdered his father and married his mother (hey, it could happen to anyone). In other words, he probably didn't think he could have acted any differently. He was a prisoner of his fate. As you have pointed out, the ancient Greeks seemed to take it for granted that innocent people were punished by the gods. If things didn't work out for you, it was just as likely the gods' fault as your own. Now don't you find that philosophy just a bit reassuring? At least they didn't have nearly as hard a time as we do trying to reconcile divinity with the problem of evil in the world.

Have you noticed that cannibalism pops up fairly frequently in these old Greek tales? I guess this goes to show just how far back in history these myths originated. Also, if you didn't like roast meat, with a sausage thrown in very occasionally for variety, you were pretty much out of luck as far as your diet went. Honeyed wine seems to have been the favored beverage; maybe we need to give it a try sometime.

Barb, you made some excellent points about Penelope. I thought it was interesting that every time she appeared before the suitors, she put a veil over her face, which emphasized to me her subservient position. I was just a tad surprised that she thought of the archery contest to determine the final bridegroom right after the disguised Odysseus assured her that her husband was on his way back, but I guess this was necessary to move the story along.

I like the repetition in this poem, which I am sure is a holdover from the oral epic style. Dawn always rises from her golden throne with her rosy red fingers. Penelope cries piteously to herself every single night until Athena seals her eyes with sleep. Athena is very appealing to this twentieth century woman -- a real feminist heroine.

I don't know where Dick from Alaska has disappeared to, but I want to thank him for suggesting this selection. I have enjoyed it much more than I expected.

Now, back the slaughter of the suitors and my loom.
Ann " 14 64 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/25/1998 11:13:49 PM 48 0 "During that unfortunate affair in Southeast Asia about 28 years ago, I was privileged to serve America on board a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. One of the obligations of the commander of our task force was to issue a daily report to the fleet about our operations.

For a while this obligation was delegated to a junior officer with a classical background. Every morning the report, which was sent to senior commanders throughout the Pacific Fleet, began: ""As rosy fingered dawn rose over the wine dark sea ... ""

This lasted for almost a week until somebody in authority actually got around to reading the silly thing.
" 14 14 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/25/1998 11:41:36 PM 52 0 "Jim: Just be thankful you weren't forced to wait until a senior officer actually recognized the source of the quotation -- you would probably still be out there, the Flying Dutchman of Yankee Station.

Dick
" 14 41 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/26/1998 7:40:32 PM 52 0 "Jim,
What a great story. It's nice to hear about someone who kept his sense of humor under the most trying of circumstances. How many people do you suppose got the classical allusions?

Dick,
Are you still with us on THE ODYSSEY?

Ann, coming into the home stretch and feeling like she is drenched in blood after reading about the slaughter of the suitors.

" 14 38 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/26/1998 11:33:51 PM 49 0 "Hi folks, I'm back from visiting my mother and taking her up to her cabin. The Odyssey went along with me, but I must admit, I'm finding it rough going. I enjoyed the introduction, especially the part about how the Greeks added descriptions such as ""rosy-fingered"", or ""brave and virtuous"" to their nouns in order to make the meter scan correctly.

Thanks for alerting me to the translator's notes at the end. I'll give that a read before I try to go any further in the book. I'm not sure whether I'm gonna make it through this book, tho.

As far as the Greeks and their gods, go, perhaps I can throw a little light on things. I'm not an historian, nor do I know a hell of a lot about Greek history and civilization. I was a studio art major, not an art history major, so when I found myself teaching a survey course in art history which included Greek Art, I had to do some fast footwork in the reference books to bone up on my history.

The Greeks are usually considered the first people to elevate humanism, the idea that man can be perfectable, that humankind is of an importance that, if lesser than the gods, at least has the potential of approaching that of the gods. We could posit from this perhaps, that therefore, inversely, the gods were ""humanized"", brought down from the position of infallibility often seen in the gods of earlier civilizations. In this manner, the gap between humans and gods in Greek thought, was less than we are accustomed to, and therefore their gods don't seem to behave with proper godlike propriety.

Ruth
" 14 14 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/26/1998 11:40:55 PM 50 0 "Ann: I'm still here, albeit overwhelmed with law and family matters, none of them overly serious, fortunately, but nonetheless time-consuming. As for the dead suitors: think of them as modern-day members of the media, surrounding the forlorn victim of a famous tragedy. Conceive how you would rejoice in the letting of their blood, the spraying of their entrails across the ceremonial fires, the mixing of their marrows with the cracked oozings of the sacrificial lambs. Consider them for a moment as the media crowd around Clinton or around Diana's corpse. Then, understand the vengence of Odysseus. Only once in my life have I experienced blood-red rage with a solid object in my hand, and it was not a pretty experience. It was edifying, however, at least for me.

Dick
" 14 33 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/27/1998 2:15:12 AM 55 0 "Trailing far behind the pack, I finally finished Vanity Fair late last week, and am now free to begin the Odyssey - I actually bought the Fagles translation. Looking forward to it and will report back next month, when the rest of you have moved on to other topics.

As for Vanity Fair, I loved it - at least the first 80%. That long stretch at the end where we suffer through Emmy's widowhood was a real drag - seemed that Thackeray was trying to fill up space there (drag out his installment publication payments a few more weeks, maybe?)

I thought the ending was perfect. Becky didn't triumph social-wise, but she did get her own back on Jos. And Amelia married her adorer, only to find his adoration now directed at their little daughter. And he was just the type of guy to dote on darling daughter, wasn't he? All in all, well worth the long haul. Although in the end I did not find this book to be as modern in outlook as I had at first believed. Thackeray still gives us archtypes, he just presents them in a little different light than did his contemporaries.

Sorry to be off-topic, but didn't have the time to find the Vanity Fair thread.

Theresa
" 14 25 The Odyssey -- Sluts & Slogans 08/27/1998 7:14:10 AM 55 0 "Thanks for the info on Greek civilization, Ruth. I knew a little about their connection to humanism, but didn't think of it as related to the human-like qualities of their gods.

And, Dick, you're right. Wouldn't it be fun to just go slashing away at those vultures? I do know what Ann means though. That ending was one of the times during the reading of The Odyssey that I realized I was witnessing a distinct division in our cultures. Can you imagine what the average prosecutor would have done with Odysseus after that? Barb
" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscrip to Vanity Fair 08/27/1998 11:16:14 PM 57 0 "Theresa,
Your notes are always worth waiting for. Your comments about not being surprised that Dobbin's daughter replaced his wife in his affections were very perceptive. I suppose those naive, helpless qualities were what initially attracted him to Amelia, after all.

Feel free to post on THE ODYSSEY whenever you get the chance.

Barb,
Clytemnestra is mentioned in The Odyssey and contrasted to Penelope, the perfect, long suffering wife. Clytemnestra was Agamemnon's wife. She and her lover Aegisthus killed Agamemnon when he returned from Troy. Clytemnestra hated her husband because he had sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis in order to appease her anger so that she would give the Greek army favorable weather so that their ships could finally sail to Troy. Clytemnestra, in turn, was slain by her son Orestes, who was caught between a rock and a hard place. It was his duty to avenge his father's death, but it was also a crime to kill his mother, even though Apollo ordered him to do it. Eventually, after enduring years of suffering, the gods forgave him for following Apollo's orders. (Sometimes you just couldn't win in this culture). In VANITY FAIR, Becky played this character in one of the charades. Not very flattering, eh? " 14 25 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/28/1998 10:09:13 AM 56 0 "Ann,
This problem that I've always had with names is definitely getting worse. I remember the situation that was referred to repeatedly in The Odyssey in which a man's wife killed him upon his return, but I did not associate it with that name. And, I also didn't connect Becky's character in the charade with the use of that name under the illustration or with what I read in O. Please highlight these things in the future when you think I'm not catching them. I feel like I'm missing some pretty crucial stuff.

Barb
" 14 38 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/28/1998 11:46:28 AM 56 0 "I hate to admit it, but I'm bailing on this one. To me The Odyssey is just gonna have to remain one of those things that it's more interesting to know about than to actually experience.

Ruth
" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/29/1998 9:09:31 AM 49 0 "Barb,
These Greek names are killers to remember. I had a couple of nuns as teachers who were really interested in Greek mythology (go figure), so I was exposed to it quite a bit when I was younger. Still, I have forgotten most of the stories. That Edith Hamilton book MYTHOLOGY has come in handy to refresh my memory.

I have finished THE ODYSSEY now and have started the introduction.

Ruth,
Sorry you had to give up, but I understand. I hope you will be joining us on one of the future selections.

The September selection is Mauriac's DESERT OF LOVE, about a love triangle involving a father and son, to be followed by BURMESE DAYS by George Orwell for October, CHARTERHOUSE OF PARMA by Stendhal for November, and BILLY BUDD by Herman Melville for December. At least three out of four of those are short and should be relatively easy reading, so I'm hoping we will pick up more participants.

Ann
" 14 64 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/30/1998 9:00:57 AM 53 0 "While touring hell with Odysseus, I ran into this interesting comment from Achilles:

By god, I'd rather slave on earth for another man --
some dirt-poor farmer who scrapes to keep alive --
than rule down here over all the breathless dead.

As an old Paradise Lost fan, I am inevitably reminded of Satan announcing that he'd rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

It occurs to me that one of Homer's major themes is that it is better to be relatively powerless and human than to be god-like and always in control. Odysseus gives up the chance to live in the lap of luxury several times and even gives up a chance to be a god in order to go home and fight his way through all those suitors.

If The Odyssey needs a moral to the story, maybe this is it.
" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/31/1998 7:42:31 PM 49 0 "Now that's an interesting idea, Jim. Most of the time, the humans do seem more moral than the gods, don't they?

I am almost done with the introduction. It's full of fascinating information, but I am certainly glad that I read it after the book. Because it dissects the poem, it makes The Odyssey seem rather lifeless, which is not the case. Anyhow, in the introduction, Knox suggests that the most important moral in the book is the need to be hospitable to guests. Then he goes on to point out the irony of the fact that Zeus permits Poseidon (a really nasty god) to punish the Phaecians because they took such good care of Odysseus.

To us these gods seem really lacking. Maybe if we compared them to other ancient gods, they would seem an improvement, however. The ancient Egyptians, for example, represented many of their gods with animal heads. Some pagan gods also regularly demanded human sacrifice. There was that unfortunate incident of Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter Iphegenia to appease Artemis, but this seems to have been a hideous exception to the usual demands of the gods.

Ann " 14 14 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 08/31/1998 10:32:13 PM 52 0 "Ann: Analysis of the role of the gods in Homeric poetry requires more time, education and intellect than I have available. Having coughed up the obligatory excuses, however, I can say this: Poseidon was truly, as you point out, the nastiest of the gods. Not surprising if you've ever spent any time on the Mediterranean or its associated seas -- which can turn uncommon nasty at the drop of a barometer. As a (largely) seagoing people in small and frail (if ferociously black) boats, I suspect the Greeks found the pernicious unpredictability of the oceanic gods a disconcerting and even frightening counterpart to the more benign deities of the land. I find it very interesting that the whimsy of the gods in The Odyssey seems to result in events remarkably similar to what we modern mortals would view as mere chance. In short, the ancient Greeks seem to have inserted their gods into the interstices of their day to day lives in an attempt to answer the questions: ""Why are good people screwed over?"" And, ""Why do babies die before they have offended the gods?"" Or even, ""If I eat oysters in a month with an 'R' in it, which language counts?"" I think this consideration of 'how we use God' could be usefully extended to our modern day approaches to theology and religion. Of course, some serious folks have written big books on this stuff. It ain't simple, but its fascinating.

Dick
" 14 64 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/01/1998 7:43:17 AM 52 0 "I've missed the big books on theology, but I have heard a few sermons on the subject.

They suggest several primitive notions (from a Christian perspective) of how God operates: (1. God is a dependable force that inevitably defends one tribe or social group against another no matter what, (2. God is an arbitrary force that needs to be buttered up with offerings and that favors whoever gives the most, or (3. God is some sort of judge who will give you what you want if you just obey the laws he sets down.

According to my sermonizing friends, the Christian concept of grace rejects all three notions and suggests that God does things for us just because He/She likes us, not because of anything we have done.

What fascinates me is the way all of the ""primitive"" notions of God seem to get mixed into current practice even though theoretically Christianity has moved beyond all of that. Certainly the notions of prayers and offerings has a flavor of someone wanting to butter up an arbitrary force.

A second aspect of the question is what your conception of God does to the way you conduct your life. Certainly, if you assume that you are backed by a powerful force that is always on your side, your actions should be different than if you think there are supernatural forces out to get you no matter what.

The Greeks seem to have finessed the question of how God operates by having multiple gods so that you can have any style you want.

This is all very puzzling, and I am waiting for some CR to step up and give the final authoritative answer, hopefully in under three paragraphs.


" 14 65 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/01/1998 11:47:39 AM 51 0 "Well, Dick, thoroughly enjoyed your commentary -- as always.

Your questions -- 'Why are good people screwed over?' and 'Why do babies die before they have offended the gods?' brought echoes of the great January discussions on The Book of Job and MacLeish's J.B. and so on. This connection had crossed my mind as I read some of the earlier postings also but your questions are the same questions that were asked in those January works are they not?
Verrryyyy innnttteresstting!!!

THEN along comes Jim with his comments -- I thought -- wouldn't he have been a grand addition to that January discussion?

Dottie -- thinking about tackling The Odyssey one of these years!
" 14 38 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/01/1998 12:23:13 PM 54 0 "By one of those strange confluences of events, I have come into possession of a tape explaining the first four books of the Odyssey. Some of you may remember my singing the praises of The Teaching Company, a company that sells tapes of master teachers. They're pricey, but priceless. We've bought their series on the history of music, one on astronomy and are now listening to one on the history of the English language. Someone there evidently pulled my name out of a hat and they called a couple of weeks ago and polled me as to my satisfaction with the tapes, what courses I would like to see offered, etc. Also asked if I would be willing to evaluate a tape for a proposed course for them. It came, and was unlabeled, so imagine my surprise when I popped it into the deck last night and found myself listening to a course on the Odyssey.

The speaker made much of the tradition of Xenia, the guest-host relationship and how important it was to ancient Greece and how it informs the relationship between Telemachus and the suitors, T and Athena, and T and Darius and Menalaus. (The older men he visits re Odysseus, was that their names?) Her explanation of the bloody execution of the suitors that has been mentioned here, is that they had so violated the tradition of Xenia that there was nothing else that could be done with them.

One thing that was interesting--if you were a traveler and needed a ""motel"" for the night (and there was no such thing in ancient Greece), it was incumbent on you to seek accommodations in the home of someone of the same social rank. If you were a king you went to the king's palace, if you were a beggar you went to a poor man, if you were a merchant you sought someone in a similar position.

She also spoke about how the Odyssey existed in the oral tradition long before it was written down, and about how any listener to this story would have been familiar with the events being retold. This gave each bard freedom, not to change the substance of the story, but to change the emphasis given to any particular event. It could be glossed over (since everyone knew what happened anyway) or it could be embroidered upon and made into a significant event. Individual bards told the story in different ways, and indeed may have tailored it to fit the audience for whom they were performing. It was this speaker's opinion that the Odyssey as Homer wrote it down might have consisted of a single performance by a certain bard. This differs somewhat from other things I've read which say that the Odyssey is probably a compilation of tales from various sources.

This freedom to vary the legend may be the reason so much time is spent on the Telemachus, the first four books, before Odysseus even appears on the scene. The particular bard responsible for this felt the necessity to set the scene on Ithaca, to let us know the full circumstance of events there, so as to make us fully aware of the significance of Odysseus's absence.

Penelope is in an intolerable circumstance-it's been 20 years, is she a wife or a widow? If Odysseus is not dead, it's her duty to be ""acting king"" and keep his throne warm for him, so to speak. If she's a widow, she must act as regent until Telemachus comes of age. Then she must step aside for her son. We come in on the action at a crucial point. Telemachus has just reached maturity. What is Penelope to do?

This tape lasts about 40 minutes. Would anyone like me to send it to them? I'd be happy to pop it into an envelope send it on.

Ruth

" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/01/1998 5:22:03 PM 53 0 "Dick,
Good points about Poseidon and his significance to a sea going people. In addition to being the god of the sea, he was also the god of earthquakes -- not someone to mess with.

It must be human nature to prefer even an unpleasant explanation to no explanation for why things happen the way they do: i.e. the gods screw good people over is preferable to I have no idea why good people are screwed over and it can happen to anyone (including me) at any time. After all, there is always a chance of appeasing the gods with an appropriate sacrifice of animal thighs. (Why oh why did those gods prefer the thighs? Dick, I am counting on you for an explanation or at least an hypothesis).

Jim,
I enjoyed your note, as usual. If we can add another category to your classification, I would propose the God who is the great equalizer in the world to come: when we're all dead (and can no know the difference) God will explain everything and make it all come out fairly. The last shall be first, etc.

Ruth,
Talk about fate. Yes, I would enjoy that tape. I'll email you my new address.

The man who wrote the introduction to the Fagles translation makes some of the same points. He also thinks that Homer drew on a rich oral tradition of improvisation, based on a story very familiar to the audience. He thinks that Homer wrote it down. I keep wondering how someone who was blind could have done that, especially since Greek writing was just being invented. Did the woman on the tape address that?

He also points out the tension between Telemachus and Penelope, which is indeed present throughout the story. Telemachus has some rather snotty things to say to and about his mother -- sounded like a typical teenager to me, although I guess he had to be over 20.

Ann " 14 25 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/05/1998 11:20:41 AM 40 0 "Whew! I've finally emerged from my reintroduction to the working world this week. I don't seem to do these transitions easily. It also doesn't help that my kids go back to school too with all the demands that brings as well. It was lovely to come back and find all these notes on CC though.

Ann, if Ruth doesn't mind, I'd love to listen to the Odyssey tapes next. I'll e-mail you my new address. I was interested in all that you posted about it, Ruth, but was particularly struck by the points regarding Penelope. Within the story, I completely missed the point that she was either required to rule the kingdom for Odysseus or act as regent for Telemarchus. It sounded as if she was simply required to select a new husband after the 20 years. I did understand that the other men on the island would be challenging Telemarchus' position. Is the former one of the points that should be known by knowing the Greek culture of that time or was it conveyed within the context of the story?

And, Ann, I read parts of the introduction before reading the text and hope to get back to it after finishing The Desert of Love. Knox's points about the relationship between Penelope and Telemarchus are interesting. There is this approach/avoidance quality to their relationship, pretty consistent with adolescence. However, in this situation, it may be more profound since, if Penelope marries one of her suitors, she could become aligned with him against Telemarchus in a competition for who will be king.

In another strange alignment of the fates, my 16 year old is going to be reading The Odyssey in his English class this year. However, his instructor has directed them to buy a prose version translated after 1930. I'm disappointed to say the least since I was hoping that he would be reading the Fagles translation. Am having him take it to school and show it to his teacher with the tiny hope that it will still do. However, if not, can anyone recommend a good prose translation?

Barb




" 14 29 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/05/1998 2:16:42 PM 40 0 "Barb

Nice that the week's behind you and you're back here.

About a prose version of the Odyssey:

I've looked at the Amazon site just to see what they are offering and at my library site to see what they have. I've also pawed through my own books to see what I have. (I've learned more about TBR's #813 and #905 since the CR's have stirred me up than I can tell. I've also learned about the books that I think I remember owning but that went to library book sales when I wanted more room and thought ""Well,I can always get that at the library.) And as a matter of interest, the Mechanic's Library, which I use, has an 1865 version of Alexander Pope's version with illustrations by Flaxman.

Prose Odysseys do not grow on trees. There is a Modern Library version probably getting long in the tooth, but so is Homer. There is an Oxford University Press version by T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia.) There is also one by Samuel Butler (of The Way of All Flesh). I would vote for the version contained in Gods and Heroes a lovely book by the Pantheon Press which I have long cherished. Amazon has it available in paperback for $16. The author is Gustav Schwab, the text is translated from the German and it's Greek sources with help from the Institute for Classical Studies at Harvard University. This book covers the whole world of Greek myth and is eminently readable in spite of its scholarly academic credentials, if you know what I mean.

The Penguin Book of Greek Verse, would almost certainly not meet your son's requirements because it does not give complete versions of the epics. But it is well worth looking into. The texts are given in Greek (to me) with prose English translations appended, and these latter seem to me to really capture the sense of what Greek literature is all about and why we find it important to look back to that simultaneously civilized and primitive world.

Pres, who's going to go get a shot of ouzo (anise me no questions and I'll tell you no lies.)

" 14 63 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/06/1998 12:23:40 AM 43 0 "BARBARA

I just ordered the T.E. Lawrence version of The Odyssey. It is reputed to be a prose translation. Since I have the utmost respect for Mr Lawrence's academic and literary credentials, I expect it to be readable. Will have to report later though. There was one nasty bit of criticism on ""barnesandnoble.com"" by a Marjorie F MacKenzie, which I didn't quite understand. She evidently doesn't think there should be any prose translations of The Odyssey. And why bring back Lawrence's? Most interesting is that the same Bernard Knox? (is that the right name? The book is downstairs and I don't dare leave the computer on its own.)

Another interesting place I looked was MX Bookfinder Results (www.mxfb.com/search/. Anyway, one of the comments on this book was that it had gone through ten editions. Denoting to me, at least, that it had some merit. And originals seem to go for between twelve bucks (American) and a couple of grand (also American).

Back to the subject. I particularly enjoyed a prose version by W.H.D. Rouse. Reads easily. Some modern slang even. And I saw it tonight at Barnes and Noble. In paper back.

I see my modem has cut off again. Only Zeus knows if this transmission will get through.

EDD
" 14 25 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/06/1998 8:12:05 AM 40 0 "Pres and Edd,
Thanks so much for the information regarding the prose Odyssey recommendations. I really appreciate all that research. I was just hoping that someone had already had experience with one. I've printed both of your notes out to aid in our selection.

I didn't realize that Lawrence's translation was prose. The one with modern slang may be good for a 16 year old. I must say that I was made more comfortable with the Fagles translation when he used so many 20th century words (Helen's reference to herself as a ""slut"" comes to mind).

I hate to find myself agreeing with Ms. MacKenzie, but what is the reason for a prose version? Wasn't Homer's original version in poetic form? I suppose it would be more readable than some of the earlier poetic versions. I can't imagine it being more readable than Fagles.

Edd, I didn't quite catch your question about the same Bernard Knox. What were you referring to? And, is your modem cutting out because you're getting interference from your access number? Or, could it be a timing situation set up in your computer? Tonya told me to look for that problem once but I haven't had it cut out again since. You might ask on the WEBBOARD QUESTIONS conference.

Barb


" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/06/1998 9:54:14 PM 40 0 "Barb,
My boys had to read a prose translation of THE ODYSSEY for their freshman English class, but they go to a public school, so the school provided the book. Naturally, they don't remember the translator, but I think it was Rouse. For his senior English class, Greg is reading THE ILIAD. It is written in poetry. The translator is Richmond Lattimore. I think that Lattimore is a very respected translator, but it is not nearly as easy to read as Fagles' translation of THE ODYSSEY. I really wish they were reading his version of THE ILIAD. It is written in much more natural English.

I will be happy to send you Ruth's tape when I am finished. I have finished DESERT OF LOVE, but have been too lazy to start a note. I keep hoping someone else will beat me to the punch. - G -

EDD,
We would really like to hear back from you when you get the T.E. Lawrence translation. Maybe you could even post a paragraph or two to give us the flavor.

I access this site from Prodigy Internet. Although it's not the fastest connection, I never get disconnected (unlike Prodigy Classic). Sometimes the connection times out, but it allows me to reconnect, and I never lose my place or the note I am writing. I haven't figured out yet how it all works, but I am pleased that I don't get cut off.

Ann " 14 25 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/07/1998 9:46:04 AM 40 0 "We're off to the bookstore today if it's open on Labor Day and I'll keep everyone posted as to our experience with the prose version. It sounds like Rouse may be the best choice for my son. It also needs to be something that is not in a collection since he carries most of his books around in his backpack. He managed to wear out an Eastpak, which is supposed to last forever, in one year.

Yes, this requirement of buying your own books in private schools can be complicated, Ann, and expensive as well. Jeff's books for this year were $340 and he said that he got away cheaper than any of his friends by finding lots of used buys. It makes me appreciate the books handed to my younger son in public school. One advantage, though, is that the older one can highlight in his books which he really likes to do as he studies. I can relate. I always miss the option to write in a book when it's borrowed or from the library.

And, I did finally post on The Desert of Love. I kept thinking and finally decided that I had to try and put it into words.

Barb
" 14 33 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/07/1998 10:11:44 PM 45 0 "I finished books 1 through 5 this week-end (trailing along behind the rest of you) and had a great time. The family relationships/history are so skillfully shown. Don't the suitors remind you of a gang of teen-agers who've decided to terrorize the neighbors? And Telemachus is so earnest and so unsure of how to handle the situation. (And wasn't that a funny remark at the beginning - when Athena first visits him in disguise and he states that, while he has always been told he is the son of Odysseus, he really isn't quite sure about the matter . . .). Does anyone know why Athena is such a champion for Odysseus and for Odysseus through his son? This isn't quite clear to me.

Fagles translation is so readable - I am very impressed. I am also very glad for the glossary of person/places at the back - although sometimes it is a bit too sparse (for example, merely reiterating info that is already in the text, rather than giving us a bit of background). But useful nonetheless.

So, Odysseus has strayed, but he gets to blame it on the wiles of ""that woman"", not to mention the will of the gods. Pretty convenient!

I am also reading a very interesting book called ""A History of Reading."" If I have time I will give this book its own post. In an earlier post, one or more of you had noted that you were glad to have ""read"" the audio-version of this book. Manguel, in History of Reading notes that reading was generally done aloud, even when there was no audience, until at least long after the time of St. Augustine. Silent reading is a comparatively modern invention. So if, in addition to evolving from an oral history, the written version of this tale was meant to be read aloud, it is not surprising that it is more satisfying that way. I'm not a fan of books on tape, so I guess I will never know.

Theresa
" 14 29 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/08/1998 6:58:56 PM 41 0 "ALL

In Happy Alchemy by Robertson Davies there is the text of a speech RD gave at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, Canada, entitled ""The Noble Greeks"". This is a superb, non academic, exegesis on the subjects discussed here in the last several weeks - the Greeks, their nature, and their religion.

Pres
" 14 41 The Odyssey --postscript to Vanity Fair 09/09/1998 8:23:50 PM 30 0 "Theresa,
In some ways Telemachus did remind me of a somewhat bratty teenager, especially in his all too familiar relationship with his mother. - G -

During the Trojan War, the gods picked sides and Athena was on the side of the Greeks. In part this was because Paris picked Aphrodite as the most beautiful, when given the choice of Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena. Aphrodite gave the best bribe, i. e. Helen. Athena seems to have particularly liked Odysseus because he was so clever. The Trojan horse was his idea.

That's really interesting about reading out loud. My early teachers certainly discouraged that, but I wonder if it isn't a more natural method of learning to read. People who enjoy poetry often comment that it needs to be read out loud to appreciate it.

Pres,
Thanks for the information. I'm adding it to my TBR list.

Ann " 14 63 The Odyssey --The Lawrence Translation 09/13/1998 2:47:06 AM 30 0 "There was some discussion a while back on why a poetic translation, or why a prose translation? A comment on the prose translation.

The story of Odysseus was told late at night. With a glowing fire; and wood lined jars of Retsina. With gestures. And in the language of the least literate.

Does poetry come before writing? As a mnemonic, giving the bard a means of remembering? As you may have guessed, I don't really know. But there is enough room in the opposing arguments to allow for both. And that is the case. The Lawrence translation follows a long tradition.
T.E. Lawrence in the translator's note says (probably tongue in cheek: ""The twenty-eighth English rendering of the Odyssey can hardly be a literary event, especially when it aims to be essentially a straightforward translation.

(more to follow, computer wants to hang up)

" 14 25 The Odyssey --The Lawrence Translation 09/13/1998 4:24:17 PM 27 0 "Edd,
I always assumed that an oral tradition would produce a poetic version of The Odyssey simply because of the increased entertainment level of verse, though I suppose that's an individual taste? Also, I had always heard Homer referred to as a poet.

I finally bought the Rousch translation for my son. It was actually first published in 1937 which almost persuaded me not to buy it. However, when I skimmed through it, the prose seemed extremely readable. His class hasn't started on it yet but I'll be interested to see what translations are used by the other kids. I'm also going to be very interested in what Jeff learns in this discussion. So far, the teacher seems outstanding.

Barb
" 14 63 The Odyssey --The Lawrence Translation 09/14/1998 2:24:42 AM 23 0 "
BARBARA

I remember enjoying the Rouse translatio; most especially because it was not poetic. And at that time I just wanted to get the characters straight.

The real shame is that today's young do not have the ""cultural advantage"" of the old Classic Comics of my youth. It got me quickly over the hump of understanding the plot so that I could concentrate on the stuff that made English teachers happy.

Incidentally I picked up yet another translation of the ODYSSEY. This time by George Herbert Palmer. About a buck in a used book store.

EDD
" 14 25 The Odyssey --The Lawrence Translation 09/14/1998 5:11:15 PM 24 0 "Sorry about the misspelling of Rouse. Today, they use Cliff's Notes, Pres. The first time my son asked for them, I was appalled. However, as far as I can tell, he's never used them as a substitute for reading the book and they make great study aids.

Barb
" 14 41 The Odyssey --The Lawrence Translation 09/14/1998 8:15:11 PM 27 0 "Edd and Barb,
In addition to Cliff Notes, there are also the Monarch notes. Until I canceled Homework Helper, my son used to print them out regularly. Some of them were pretty interesting. Sad to say (well, I don't know how sad), he did get by without finishing MOBY DICK or IVANHOE, due to their assistance. His English teacher this year won't let them get by without reading the original text very carefully. My son had a test on the ILIAD on Friday and complained that the teacher wanted to know what kind of shoes Agamemnon wore (not really, of course--only sandals had been invented. -G-)

I am reading a book by Robert Hellenga called THE FALL OF THE SPARROW. The main character is a classics teacher and it is especially fun reading the references to THE ODYSSEY and knowing what he is talking about. The teacher is trying to deal with the death of a daughter who was killed in a terrorist bombing, so he muses a lot about the meaning of death.

""...death gives shape to life. That's the great lesson of the Iliad. Compared to Hector and Andromache, to Achilles and Priam, the lives of the gods who live forever are meaningless. The lives of the gods, who confront no limitations, who make no important decisions.""

Agree or disagree?

Also, there is a scene in the book where the class discusses Calypso's offer to make Odysseus immortal if only he will give up his plans to return to Penelope and stay with her forever. He asks the class, what would you choose and why.

Any thoughts?

Ann






" 14 22 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/17/1998 6:10:33 PM 24 0 "I finally finished The Odyssey. I read it piecemeal in between other books, since this isn’t the type of book I normally read. Even with the modern flowing language, I find I couldn’t read much of it at a time. I am very glad to have read it, though. How else would I have understood what in the world Jane Kenyon was alluding to when she wrote this:

Small Early Valentine

Wind plays the spy,
opens and closes doors,
looks behind shutters--
a succession of clatters. I
know perfectly well
where you are: in that
not-here-place you go to,
the antipodes. I have your note
with flights and phone numbers
for the different days....
Dear one, I have made the bed
with the red sheets. Our
dog’s the one who lay
on the deep pile of dung,
lifting his head and ears
when after twenty years
Odysseus approached.


_____
Me here: one question. Do any of you understand why a dog would lay on a pile of dung? Maybe I’m being overly literal here, but that seems an unusual place for a dog to be, even an old one.

On Kenyon’s poem, do you think she was telling “Dear one” he’d been away a wee bit too long?

Sherry
" 14 64 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/17/1998 9:56:35 PM 26 0 "Of course, you're right about the general message of the poem. I don't know if the pile of dung refers to any prior literary event, but I can imagine there being piles of dried manure on Kenyon's Vermont farm where a dog might well lie. The sense I get from the allusion is that things get pretty lax when she and her husband are apart.
" 14 14 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/17/1998 10:12:52 PM 26 0 """The dog is turned to his own vomit...."" 2 Peter, 2-22. They're vile critters, and that's a matter of historical fact. If I dared to post what horrible things my dog has lain in, with, under, on and near, why I would be banished from the internet. 'Nuff said.

Dick
" 14 38 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/18/1998 12:54:42 AM 29 0 "Sherry,
When I was a kid, our collie used to love to rub her shoulders in horse manure.

Can you tell us lazyasses who didn't finish the Odyssey, the significance of the red sheets?

Ruth, who used to be a little lax when it was her turn to shovel the corral
" 14 22 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/18/1998 6:44:57 AM 25 0 "When Odysseus returned in the form of an old beggar, the only one who recognized him was Argos, his dog who was lying on a dung heap (my dog rolls in stuff, but doesn't choose it as a doggy bed). As soon as Argos recognized Odysseus, the old dog died.
Ruth, Penelope was finally convinced that Odysseus was indeed himself when she tested him about the secret of the ""deep-rooted bed"". The bed in their bedchamber (and for some reason this was a secret known only to one servant) was made from a living tree. I liked that symbol. Kenyon's red sheets were probably in celebration of Valentine's Day.
Sherry
" 14 25 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/19/1998 8:42:46 AM 20 0 "I can't believe how many literary allusions there are to The Odyssey and to Shakespeare's plays in most literature. I love ""getting"" them. I've found a number of allusions to Othello since I read it with CC.

I always assumed that the dog was lying on a pile of dung when Odysseus returned out of despondency, that he had given up life and was just lying there in his own waste waiting for his master to return. But, I've found in reading these classics that there are other ancient allusions that I miss.

Barb
" 14 14 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/19/1998 11:30:04 AM 25 0 "One other thought: a dung pile might well be a source of warmth, and might not even be so messy once you give it a little time to cure. Maybe we just have a cold dog here. And speaking of dogs, for those 'Blue Dog' fanciers in the group, there was an extensive article in the NYtimes this week on the BD artist.

Dick
" 14 64 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/19/1998 5:32:08 PM 25 0 "Now, as they talked on, a dog that lay there
lifted up his muzzle, pricked his ears ...
It was Argos, long-enduring Odysseus's dog
he trained as a puppy once, but little joy he got
since all too soon he shipped to sacred Troy.
In the old days young hunters loved to set him
coursing after the wild goats and deer and hares.
But now with his master gone he lay there, castaway,
on piles of dung from mules and cattle, heaps collecting
out before the gates till Odysseus's serving-men
could cart it off to manure the king's estates.
Infested with ticks, half-dead from neglect,
here lay the hound Argos.
" 14 25 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/20/1998 6:49:38 AM 22 0 "Well, then, it wasn't his own waste, but he certainly was despondent.

Barb
" 14 14 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/20/1998 12:00:21 PM 19 0 "It's an image, like much else in The Odyssey that resonates for us 2500 years later -- the one thing we think we know about the Greeks was that they were anything but Victorian sentimentalists. Yet there's old Argo, waiting patiently for his master, just like Grey Friar's Bobby.

Dick
" 14 64 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/21/1998 12:07:35 AM 19 0 """But the dark shadow of death closed down on Argos' eyes
the instant he saw Odysseus, twenty years away.""


" 14 64 The Odyssey and literary allusion 09/28/1998 7:37:11 AM 18 0 "Another take on The Odyssey, perhaps inspired by Burmese Days: Consider the suitors as an occupying power trying to win the heart of a people away from their true selves. This surely must have been one of the things Joyce saw in the myth.

Somehow the whole story makes more sense to me as a political drama than it does as a domestic one.
" 14 25 The Odyssey/postscript to Vanity Fair 08/27/1998 7:22:33 AM 60 0 "Dobbins really is just the type to adore his little daughter, isn't he, Theresa? He never had a realistic view of Amelia and a little girl would fit much better into his mold. He'll have a shock when she grows up though.

That ending with Jos and Becky was interesting, wasn't it? Have you seen an edition with the illustrations yet? There's a wonderful one of her, with a very evil look, lurking behind a curtain with a knife. Under the illustration, in the Norton edition, it says ""Becky's second appearance in the character of Clytemnestra"". Can anyone enlighten me as to this reference?

Barb

 

 

 
Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com