Book Review: The Odyssey

odysseySo with John Green starting his second run of Crash Course Literature, I realized there are a few classics I’d never read. The Odyssey by Homer being one of them. I snagged Robert Fitzgerald’s translation from the library and became enthralled. I wasn’t expecting it to be so easy to read! For being a 462 page poem, it flowed incredibly well and kept my attention the entire way through.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, the king of Ithaca, who went away to fight in the wars in Troy caused by the abduction of Helen. This story takes place after the war is over, when everyone – or almost everyone – has gone home. Odysseus, through a series of mistakes and misfortunes, has been marooned on an isle for many years, and his family has begun to think he’s dead. Sons of most of the nobles in Ithaca have taken residence in Odysseus’ palace, courting his queen while eating his food and drinking his wine. His queen still waits for him, and puts off her suitors in a variety of ways. (The most famous of which being her claim that she must finish a weaving before taking a suitor, and while she weaves every day, she unweaves her work at night, but the suitors figure that one out and make her finish it.)

One thing kept bugging me through the entire story, though – while much is made of Odysseus being gone, and his trials, and the people waiting for him at home – the fact that his ENTIRE CREW OF SHIPMATES, heroes all, dies on the journey is somewhat glossed over. Maybe it’s my history as a military spouse, but what about THEIR families? There are surely women and children waiting in Ithaca for them as well, but nary a mention is made of them. Only the King’s story is important enough to talk about. In a 400 page book, is a paragraph about the other families too much to ask? I suppose, given how long ago the book was written, the fact that Homer writes sympathetically (albeit briefly) about a woman’s suffering for her husband might have been revolutionary on its own, and asking for some concern for anyone lower than a Prince would be unheard of.

That aside, it’s an amazing story. Here’s John Green’s take on it:

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Crash Course Literature is coming back!

Today is Digital Learning Day, so I feel it’s appropriate to plug one of my favorite Youtube channels!

If you’ve followed this blog for a few months, you know I’m a Nerdfighter. If you haven’t, and have no idea what a Nerdfighter is, well. A Nerdfighter is someone who, instead of being made of flesh and blood and inner organs is instead made of pure awesome. …..actually a Nerdfighter is someone who is a fan of John and/or Hank Green, also known as the vlogbrothers of Youtube fame. Several years ago, the two started making Youtube videos to talk to each other, EVERY DAY – and developed a following. These days they run several successful Youtube channels (all educational!), like SciShow, Mental Floss, Crash Course, and the original vlogbrothers. They started VidCon, the Con for Youtubers, and dftba Records, a recording company for Youtube artists. They’re kind of internet famous. (Oh, and John is a highly successful young adult author whose latest novel is being turned into a movie set to release this summer, so there’s that, too!)

ANYWAY. John and Hank make videos for the Youtube channel Crash Course, and they generally do a series of videos on a topic. Past topics include a 40-video series on Biology, a 43-video series on World History, an 8-video series on Literature, 12 videos on Ecology, and the two currently running, U.S. History (at 46 videos so far) and Chemistry (at 47 videos.) Hank handles the science, and John the humanities. When Chemistry and U.S. History wrap up, they’re moving on to Psychology (Hank) and another round of Literature (John).

The last Literature course covered Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. And they were EXCELLENT. So I am very excited for the next round. (I’m excited for Psychology too, but it’s not on topic for this blog!)

I thought I’d post the reading list for the next round of Crash Course Literature, since I’ll be reading it in the next few months and posting the accompanying videos with my reviews of the books. The Course is supposed to start sometime in February.

nerdfighterThe list of books John is covering:

The Odyssey by Homer
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
Hamlet by Bill Shakespeare
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Beloved by Toni Morrison

I’ve started reading The Odyssey already, and it’s surprisingly good. I expected it to be hard to read, but it’s actually easier than Shakespeare. And I love Shakespeare. So it’s going pretty quickly! I’ve read a few of the others on the list – Oedipus, Hamlet, Jane Eyre – but actually have not read the rest. So this should be fun!