Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 27.4 (Homer)

The Odyssey
Tr. Richmond Lattimore

Not sure where I bought this. I suspect it was in Northern Virginia, possibly at Borders or one of the other chain stores. I bought it during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in college–or possibly during the winter break–in preparation for a class I was to take on Joyce's Ulysses. I think it was a fall class, so I probably bought it over the summer.

It was one of those courses where the professor suggests you read the entire canon of western literature as preparation for the first few lectures–and means it. I think I managed to read The Odyssey and Hamlet and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ahead of the first lecture. I look back fondly–and with a tinge regret–on that particular reading experience.

My fondness stems from its having been my first obsessive investigation into the work of a writer–Joyce (happy Bloomsday, btw).

My regret comes from the way I approached Ulysses–that is, as some sort of sacred text, like the Bible, which required the aid of all kinds of interpreters in order to get at its meaning. The professor's approach to reading the book began with the proposition that it was VERY difficult to understand, which led me to the unfounded belief at the time that I needed to read fifty different articles BEFORE reading each section of the book.

Thus, I learned a lot about what other people had to say about Ulysses, but took away little of the pleasure of reading it for myself, or of swimming around in the sea of Joyce's words. I have tried to make up for this mistake ever since by reading little or no criticism before having read a book myself first.

(I may have taken it a little too far, at this point, reading almost no criticism either before or after reading a book.)

from The Odyssey

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven
far journeys, after he had sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
Many were they whose cities he saw, whose minds he learned of,
many the pains he suffered in spirit on the wide sea,
struggling for his own life and the homecoming of his companions.
Even so he could not save his companions, hard though
he strove to; they were destroyed by their own wild recklessness,
fools, who devoured the oxen of Helios, the Sun God,
and he took away the day of their homecoming. From some point
here, goddess, daughter of Zeus, speak, and begin our story.


Barbara Cole said...

HOW did you ever manage to land on this book on this day?
Do you think Joyce even planned the number of volumes in your library & their arrangement on your bookshelves?
Happy Bloomsday indeed!

JS said...

synchronicity, indeed . . . (you must have held off a day or two, somewhere, to make this one work!) Happy Bloomsday . . .

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

It's pure serendipity, friends.