No man's lands: one man's odyssey through The Odyssey by Scott Huler

By Scott Huler

While NPR contributor Scott Huler made yet another try and get via James Joyce’s Ulysses, he had no suggestion it will release an obsession with the book’s idea: the traditional Greek epic The Odyssey and the lonely homebound trip of its Everyman hero, Odysseus.No-Man’s Lands is Huler’s humorous and touching exploration of the lifestyles classes embedded inside of The Odyssey, a mythical story of wandering and longing which may be learn as a veritable guidebook for middle-aged males in all places. At age forty-four, along with his first baby at the means, Huler felt an quick bond with Odysseus, who fought for a few two decades opposed to ambitious problems to come back domestic to his loved spouse and son. In analyzing The Odyssey, Huler observed the opportunity to event a good vicarious experience in addition to the chance to evaluate the guy he had develop into and embody the approaching arrival of either heart age and parenthood.But Huler discovered that it wasn’t sufficient to easily learn the phrases at the page—he had to reside Odysseus’s odyssey, to go to the unique locations that make Homer’s tale so undying. And so an formidable pilgrimage used to be born . . . touring the total size of Odysseus’s two-decade trip. In six months.Huler doggedly retraced Odysseus’s each step, from the traditional ruins of Troy to his final vacation spot in Ithaca. at the approach, he discovers the Cyclops’s Sicilian cave, visits the land of the useless in Italy, ponders the lotus from a Tunisian inn, and paddles a rented kayak among Scylla and Charybdis and lives to inform the story. He writes of the way and why the teachings of The Odyssey—the perils of ambition, the vacancy of glory, the price of affection and family—continue to resonate so deeply with readers millions of years later. And as he eventually closes in on Odysseus’s ultimate vacation spot, he learns to totally delight in what Homer has been announcing all alongside: the best adventures of all are those that deliver us domestic to these we like. half travelogue, half memoir, and half serious analyzing of the best experience epic ever written, No-Man’s Lands is a rare description of 2 journeys—one old, one contemporary—and unearths what The Odyssey can train us approximately being greater bosses, greater academics, higher mom and dad, and higher people.

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But no matter how young she can keep him, Odysseus is a man in middle age. He has a wife and a child and a home, and he really wants to get back there—much like the guy who leaves his wife for the secretary only to find out that her youth isn’t his youth. He yearns instead to return to reality, to his own wife, aged, less lovely, and mortal though she may be. And that mortality, I think, is Calypso’s second and most powerful message. That is, Odysseus turns down more than a goddess, a comfortable cave, and all the grapes he can eat.

For three thousand years, we’ve been telling each other the same story. Whether it’s Joyce’s book or Tennyson’s poems, a symphony by Max Bruch or heavy metal by Symphony X, pictures by Matisse or Chagall, we’re still finding new ways to tell each other the episodes from that old story. I wondered why. These are some of the best-known episodes in the world: Odysseus defeats the Cyclops; Odysseus agonizes over the terrible decision between Scylla and Charybdis; Odysseus escapes the Sirens, who lured unwary sailors onto the rocks.

Of course, I blame circumstances; my lack of heroic stature is not entirely my fault. After all, I lack heroic milieu. Despite war, global warming, terrorism, and a host of other troubles, for American suburbanites challenge is generally lacking. A big adventure means going camping and not bringing the cell phone; when we talk about challenge, we mean life without cable, a broken air conditioner, going out to get an ink cartridge and having to drive to two stores. So you can’t blame me for wondering: Is that all there is?

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