Monday, March 5, 2012

Reading Homer

During the Duke-UNC basketball game on Saturday night, I found myself reading Homer (The Odyssey, Robert Fagles translation) . . . which was a much better option than the game, as it turned out.  Fagles's translation is a remarkable achievement, rendered in a predominant pentameter that his highly-readable and immensely enjoyable.

Most scholars agree that The Odyssey was written after The Iliad, and Homer (whoever he was) is shrouded in enough mystery that even the most marginal of readers will understand that this is a work for the ages. At more than 12,000 lines, The Odyssey is not a work that one reads at a single-sitting, and so I chose to read about Odysseus and his encounters with the Lotus-eaters and the Cyclops.
I won't go deep into the modern-day implications of either of these encounters, but most everyone can identify one or two "drugs" or "habits" that have a proclivity to pull us away from our life's purposes and goals or cause us to become complacent or lost in ourselves (the Lotus).  And as for the Cyclops, well . . . we all face giants that threaten to eat us alive, that hurl boulders at us, and that claim connection to larger powers that we cannot easily overcome.  (Poseidon, the god of the sea who pursued Odysseus relentlessly, was father of the Cyclops.)

Obviously, Duke could not overcome UNC on Saturday night.  Their giants were too many.  And after reading my fair share of The Odyssey during this disastrous game, I set out afterwards on an adventure of my own, dredging up more words and paragraphs and pages.

I hope soon to set them free on the waters of the Aegean.  May they find their home in Ithaca, and may an editor embrace them, someday, with open arms and a paycheck.


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