Where is Ray Harryhausen When You Need Him?
Where did I get the idea that I should compensate for my college-era sins by reading The Iliad? What was I thinking? I’m actually starting to sympathize with my sophomore self. I completely understand why I spent every weekend blind drunk.
I’m still not out of the five hundreds yet. Pagewise. If you put a gun to my head right now, I could not tell you what happened in the last passage I read, and it was about forty minutes ago.
Hera seduced Zeus, which is about as hard as getting Bernie Sanders to let you pick up a check. Then a god named “Sleep” ran through the Danaan camp telling everyone to get up and fight. After that, search me.
Sleep is immortal. It’s no surprise he’s enthusiastic about bloody combat. If he gets poked with a spear, it only hurts until he grows a new liver or whatever. Leftists like to call every conservative who hasn’t been to war a “chickenhawk.” It’s a horrible bit of sophistry, but that wingless shoe would definitely fit the Greek gods.
It’s awful, if you think about it. The Greek gods are like rabid Little League parents, except when Little Leaguers strike out, they go to the dugout for a participation trophy, whereas the Greek heroes go to Tartarus where they maintain their maimed forms for eternity.
I believe that’s how it works. I think I understood Brad Pitt correctly.
The Iliad is like the World Series of Little League, except the parents are allowed to charge the field and punch kids in the mouth.
I had no idea The Iliad was a thousand pages long. Because, hello, I didn’t actually read it the first time. I just assumed it was a two-day ordeal, probably because the Cliff’s Notes I actually read were about that long.
It could be worse. I tried to read Ulysses once. I got like 300 pages in before I realized it was never going to get any better. I figured it would be worth it once I got to the good part, and then I realized I was already looking at the good part. Or maybe the good part was the foreword.
James Joyce was a genius. I guess. I would rather just concede that than spend a spell in hell becoming sufficiently familiar with his work to argue the opposite.
Hemingway was a huge poser, but he was entertaining. Give him that. James Joyce went 300 pages without permitting the occurrence of a single event of interest. I can’t imagine what the remaining 32 pounds of the book were like. Maybe there was a page at the end explaining that it was all a joke, and that the publisher would send you fifty bucks for being a great sport.
I’ll never know. Unfortunately, I lost my copy in a fire. That I threw it in.
Yesterday I compared The Iliad to reality TV. That was pretty accurate. I see no reason to backpedal. But today I had another epiphany: it’s also a lot like a soap opera. It goes on forever, and nothing much happens, and there are too many characters to keep up with. One of the best things about getting way into the book is that a lot of the people you had to keep track of earlier are dead.
When I was in college, I briefly–and I do mean briefly–got into General Hospital. My freshman floor counselor had a blonde who lived with him, and she watched the show religiously. Since I inhabited the TV lounge and avoided classes, I was right there with her for a few weeks. Then I happened to see the show a few years later for some reason I no longer recall (perhaps I was being tortured so I would divulge the number of a Swiss bank account), and I was amazed to see that I could still keep up with it. So little had happened, it was as if I had gone to sleep in Port Charles on a Monday and awakened on a Wednesday.
That’s exactly how The Iliad is.
Is Port Charles right, or was that a different soap? I remember an annoying old geezer who was married to a harridan named Phoebe…or did I dream that?
The Trojan War took about a decade, and from time to time, everyone sailed home and took time off. That proves how much like a soap opera it is. Even the characters were able to skip years.
Langley Wallingford! I can’t believe I remember that! What did he see in Phoebe? Not that he was a day at the beach. But she was abominable. A beast.
Here’s something I recall. Demi Moore came on the screen, and I thought, “That poor homely little thing. She has a voice like thimbles on a washboard. She can’t even act. She will never make it.”
I don’t think the other books I declined to read (see “Lepellier Refusal,” A Separate Peace, Charles Scribner’s Sons, Knowles, J., 1959, at 30) were this long. I guess I can check.
Okay, Columbia College has The Odyssey on the list. It’s Lattimore again. More bizarre usage and bloated verbiage, I guess. Checking Amazon…YES! It’s only 374 pages! I can do that in my sleep! And unlike The Iliad, it’s actually a pretty good story. I loved it when Kirk Douglas poked the cyclops’s eye out with a burning tree trunk.
If the book is 374 pages, the Cliff’s Notes must be a pamphlet. Should go around 60 pages. I can deal with that.
I keep thinking you have to read the classics in order not to be ignorant, but I’m really wavering. The Cliff’s Notes really aren’t that bad.
I learned tons of calculus, but they didn’t make me read Isaac Newton’s notes. I probably wouldn’t have understood them. The sole piece of his notation that survives today is the dot on top of a time derivative. If I can do integration by parts without reading the actual work of Newton or Leibniz or Cauchy or whomever, it stands to reason that I should not have to read Homer in order to understand The Iliad.
Actually, it doesn’t stand to reason, but it sounds good. Close enough for jazz. It’s like an opinion by Justice Brennan: wrong and tendentious, but smart enough to get past you anyway.
There are probably four people in North America who have read the real Iliad, in the original original Greek, not cleaned up and clarified by monks and grad students. Just saying.
With any luck, I will be done in a week, and life, such as it is, will resume. Until then, expect more diatribes, because my system cannot sustain the stress of bottling this up.