The Hero’s Journey: Two From Self’s Personal Bookshelf


One takes place in ancient Greece, the other in a post-apocalyptic England.

Self loves them both, so much.

Stay tuned.

Women in The Odyssey: Calypso

Calypso keeps Odysseus with her, constantly reminds him that she is prettier than his wife Penelope, and is outraged when he continues to present to her with “tearful” countenance and begs her to allow him to return to his home on Ithaca.

Her speech to Odysseus is in the Introduction, which is why self quotes it here:

Do you really want
to go back to that home you love so much?
Well then, good-bye! But if you understood
how glutted you will be with suffering
before you reach your home, you would stay here
with me and be immortal — though you might
still wish to see that wife you always pine for.
And anyway, I know my body is
better than hers is. I am taller too.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Novel-in-Progress: A Priest’s Letter to His Superior in Madrid, 24 March 1760

Before, the natives were mere shadows, moving silently through the forest, keeping their distance. They left scarcely more evidence of their comings and goings than wild animals. The forest is their home, and I do my utmost to show them that I respect it, as much as they do. I know that they feel themselves intimately connected to the great Nature around and about them. They believe Spirits live in the whispering trees and speak to them from babbling streams. Nature is full of omens, both of good or evil.


Self is reading the Introduction.

First, The Odyssey owes its present form, not to Homer, but to a long oral tradition that existed hundreds of years before Homer, and one of the scholars who contributed to this discovery was a young American classicist named, of all things, MILMAN Perry.


Second, The Odyssey is formulaic.

Third, there is consistent layering: the nut of the epic is there, but varying cultural references show that each generation added details which felt contemporary at the time but now are — positively ancient!

So who, exactly, is Homer?

Does Homer even exist?

Was Homer a very high-falutin’ name, or was it the equivalent of “written by Anonymous”?

Also with regards to all the meat-eating the main characters do: “Meat makes a hero strong” therefore everyone who’s a hero in The Odyssey winds up eating meat: pigs, sheep, or cattle. Even though the main staple in the diet of Greece and its neighbors was fish. And the only meat-eaters were the “nomadic people of the steppes” so their influence on the Greeks was clear.

Reading the introduction, self keeps thinking of “spoken word.” Which, if you’ve ever given or attended a literary reading, was quite the thing 20 or so years ago (at least it was in San Francisco). A contemporary equivalent of spoken word might be — Twitter?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Katy Waldman’s Review of THE BOOK OF DUST, VOL. 1 Is Everything


Post-flood, La Belle Sauvage becomes an intoxicating and dreamy thing, a mixture of The Odyssey, the Bible, The Red Book, and The Faerie Queene, with its eldritch encounters and wild Englishness. Tender feelings start to unfurl between Malcolm and Alice, who is more complex and gentle than she appears. Meanwhile, the children are pursued by one of the most appallingly hypnotic villains I’ve ever encountered in literature, a handsome madman with a three-legged hyena daemon. — Katy Waldman in The Slate Book Review, 18 Oct. 2017

It’s like Waldman plumbed self’s brain, because the above captures exactly what self was thinking, and why she just had to tear through His Dark Materials — which up until this year, she had absolutely no interest in reading (and for that you can blame the movie)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Woot Hoot!

No more pirate tropes, probably, for the rest of self’s life!

Seriously, what a great novel. It only started to drag in the last 10 pages. She lost interest the moment the focus shifted to finding the buried treasure.

Self doesn’t give a fig for buried treasure! (Stevenson himself probably wasn’t that interested, or why would he have waited until the very last dozen or so pages to focus on it?)

Now to Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, which is a big, fat, heavy book and is sure to cause self much wrist, elbow, and shoulder pain (Whatever book she is currently reading gets toted around everywhere. And she does mean everywhere: to the movie theater, to the post office, to the library, etc). The Introduction helpfully informs the reader that the work is over 12,000 lines long.

From the book jacket:

  • The first great adventure story in the Western canon, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty, and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.


Stay tuned.

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