I haven’t updated what I’ve been reading for a long time, mostly because it took me forever to read “The Odyssey”. I read the epic poem in high school when I took Saturday morning Greek school. We were somehow supposed to understand the ancient Greek version, but considering that I had only recently mastered the alphabet, some verb tenses and basic vocabulary, I just borrowed an English translation from the library and followed along (this just reminded me that my Greek OAC exam was the day after my high school prom. I remember sitting at that desk at Burnamthorpe Collegiate and pulling stray bobby pins out of my hair). I filed the book away in the back of my head, and then didn’t really think about it until a month or two ago when I went to the John William Waterhouse exhibit that’s currently on display at the Musee des Beaux Arts. Waterhouse does those dreamy, pre-Raphaelite paintings – you recognize them as soon as you see them, pale ladies with long flowing hair, lots of lush nature scenes, etc. I wasn’t particularly interested in going to the exhibit, but Andrew and I have memberships to the museum and were feeling guilty about not taking advantage of them. Once I was there I became absorbed in the paintings and was especially taken with those devoted to the Odyssey. For instance, “Ulysses and the Sirens”, where Odysseus (or Ulysses) orders his crew to cover their ears so that they won’t be tempted by the Sirens, who are depicted as ridiculous/frightening birds with female heads. I had forgotten this detail from the story. When you read something so sprawling, you end up forgetting a lot. I remembered Penelope continuously weaving and unweaving her shroud and Odysseus challenging his wife’s suitors to an archery competition, but I forgot about many of Odysseus’ crazy adventures, like his encounter with the cannibal that ate his crew mates one by one or his stay on Circe’s island (where she turned the men into a bunch of pigs – ha!).
So, the exhibit inspired me to read The Odyssey again, but this time I read one of those modern translations (it was a good translation, but I’ve now returned the book to the library and can’t seem to find the author online). It’s probably a cop out, but I knew I would be distracted by the epic poem format, and I wanted to revel in the pure story, all those gods and godesses and betrayals and backstory, so I stuck with prose. It took me awhile to read through all 24 books and I’m already forgetting many details about it, but this time I took notes along the way. It was such a pleasure to read, although now I’m ready for something a little less epic.