Thursday, December 18, 2008

"I'm mad about you, my little shoplifter"

For a high-seas adventure, The Odyssey is awfully domestic. When I last read it — eight years ago. Jesus I'm old — I thought of it as a great love story. He struggles for ten years to get home! She waits for ten years post-war, when she has no reason to believe he's alive! Also she manages not to kill Telemachus, which I would have. I'm sure it was hard for him to grow up without a father (those guys tend to be maladjusted in myth, see Phaeton), but he's just the most detestable little jerk and so disrespectful to his mother.

Serena said she didn't think Odysseus deserved Penelope, since he had so many dalliances on the way home. And it's true I suppose, but I still love them. They're both so crafty! If they were in a 1930s movie they'd be jewel thieves and they'd deceive everybody and at the very end he'd come home with the loot. Of course, in my ideal update, Odyssey (directed by Ernst Lubitsch, of course), the dialogue when he finally, finally comes home after 20 years goes something like:

Penelope: "What took you so long?"
Odysseus: "Traffic was a bitch."

OK, it's a little crude for Lubitsch. Shh.

Side note: Samuel Butler, author of The Way of All Flesh and one translator of The Odyssey, decided that the epic was written by a woman, because:

Men seem unable to draw women at all without either laughing at them or caricaturing them; and so, perhaps, a woman never draws a man so felicitously as when she is making him ridiculous. If she means to make him so she is certain to succeed; if she does not mean it she will succeed more surely still. Either sex, in fact, can caricature the other delightfully, and certainly no writer has ever shown more completely than the writer of the "Odyssey" has done that, next to the glorification of woman, she considers man's little ways and weaknesses to be the fittest theme on which her genius can be displayed. But I doubt whether any writer in the whole range of literature (excepting, I suppose, Shakespeare) has succeeded in drawing a full length, life-sized, serious portrait of a member of the sex opposite to the writer's own.

There will be more about this when I've read more. Fear not.

No comments: