Book Review: The Odyssey by Homer
Welcome to my new weekly blog series! I thought I’d hold myself accountable for both reading more and writing more blogs. Voila, this idea came to mind and it serves both purposes. Let’s begin, shall we?
The Odyssey. I know—this seems completely random to select for my first entry. And it is.
I recently participated in The Artist’s Way 12-week course that inspires creativity, and from this, I discovered that I am creative in my work environment. Not so much in other aspects of my life.
This epiphany prompted me to explore all the ways where life was lacking creativity, one of which was mental stimulation. For someone who loves to use her brain, that was a major reveal! Huh. No wonder why I was getting bored so easily. I can work and play even during a quarantine, but what was I learning?
I would be a forever student if I could be. So, before I go off on a long tangent in what is supposed to be a book review, let me wrap it up quickly by saying this realization inspired me to look for free online courses to fill up my intellectual cup. I came across one on Greek Mythology and thought, “There! That’s the one!” It has absolutely no relevance whatsoever in my life, yet I still find the subject fascinating.
Plus, its first 3 weeks focused on The Odyssey by Homer, a book my daughter just read in her sophomore English class and had in her possession. My interest was piqued because I remembered reading it myself in high school and really enjoying it. Fast forward enough years, and I wondered if it still held the same curiosity.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did. Of course, it helped that the professor gave us some background first and my daughter had annotations all over it, but for the most part, I was able to understand the story quite well.
Some chapters (what Homer called “Books”) where snooze-fests of narcissistic men who droned on and on about how awesome they were and how the gods just worship them. Just like on some online dating profiles I’ve encountered.
Anyway, when I cut through that boring fat, I found the story itself to be quite fascinating. Not as in it kept me on the edge of my seat rooting for anyone.
As in, how it was totally okay for the main character, Odysseus, to have sex with several goddesses while he pined away for his wife, who was forbidden from such betrayal. Was I supposed to feel bad for him for eating in luxury and getting cosmically laid for ten years?
Or how about his wife, Penelope, had to stay up in her damn room while a town full of lusty vultures vied for her hand in marriage. Because, you know, it’s a sexy quality when you force your way into a woman’s home, plot to kill her son and gobble up all the good meat like drunken slobs. Mmmm, which rude beast should she choose to spend her life with?
And then there were the gods and their games. Let’s punish this one for ten years then help him shapeshift and beat the system to get back home. Let’s send him to an island of dead spirits who basically demonstrate exactly the reason why no one would ever want to die. Or how about the fact that no one was allowed to eat the sun god’s cows or they’d sign a death contract?
Okay, so I know I have to keep in mind that this book was written during a way different time period and that values were much different (yet, are they really? lol). I get that Greek mythology in and of itself is a complex, dramatic interpretation of what a culture deemed as their heritage, and I mean absolutely no disrespect towards their belief systems.
But aside from the sexism, which is representative of that time and civilization, I have to say that I was still very much intrigued by the story and the fabricated details. Plus, it also gave me some good laughs with my daughter, who I was able to have a mini book club discussion with as I was reading it.
All in all, if you haven’t read it, it really is a classic and I do recommend it, especially if you enjoy Greek mythology. However, you might want some cliff notes, a high school student’s annotations or just a bottle of wine to get through it.
P.S. After that book, I dropped the class. I wouldn’t have survived another piece of literature like that, or the two hours of weekly videos discussing it.