Hey, look what I found in my Drafts! I’d wondered where this had gotten to because I meant to post it before now…
This afternoon/evening I’ll be at a high school Academic Bowl with a team of homeschoolers competing against a handful of other schools. Every year there’s a different theme and 2013’s is “The Glory That Was Greece”. There are six subjects to compete in: Math, Science, English, Social Studies, Art, and Interdisciplinary (any combination of the above). I’m doing English, Social Studies, and Interdisciplinary, so I had plenty of reading to do. (Compared to what, say, the Math team had – they just learned formulas and stuff.) For Social Studies there were several books about history and geography, plus a really boring book about Greek boats. Snore. For English we had to read Antigone and The Odyssey. Antigone was… boring… so I’ll be reviewing just The Odyssey here.
First, a summary!
In The Iliad, Odysseus is away from home for ten years as he fights in the Trojan War. In its sequel The Odyssey, Odysseus takes another ten years to reach home because he’s hindered by the lazy Lotus-Eaters, Cyclopes, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, and many other things. He arrives home just in time to kill around a hundred of his wife’s suitors.
I’m sorry. That was one of the worst summaries I’ve written in a while. It’s just that so much happens in the story and if I went in more detail, I might as well just copy straight from the book. Anyway, it’s a really good story. It certainly doesn’t lack for adventure. If you love the Percy Jackson books, then give it a go. (Yes, yes, I know The Odyssey was first, but I’m just saying. Try the real thing, you know?) I loved how Odysseus is kind of an idiot. He makes me feel better about my own procrastination issues. Seriously, a ten-year trip? I’d recommend this book to everyone.
But as I discovered when I began to read it, The Odyssey isn’t really the kind of book you can just pick up and read. It’s told in verse, which is not what I’m used to. Its language also left me going, “Huh? What are they saying there?” quite a bit. I ended up looking at quite a few other books to help me make sense of just one, such as CliffsNotes and A Guide to The Odyssey: A Commentary on the English Translation of Robert Fitzgerald by Ralph Hexter. The latter was really useful because all it is is notes for pretty much every stanza-thingy. After a while it was easier to figure out what was going on, but then I could check Guide and realize that no wonder I wasn’t understanding a passage – it had a reference to, like, an Ancient Greek knock-knock joke. (I’m just making up that example to show you how obscure the stuff was at times.)
It’s nice to know what the words mean, but what about the story? Based on the practice questions, it seems like a lot of the questions we’ll have tonight will concern literary terms like alliteration, anadiplosis, etc, but I don’t want to read a book just so I can identify the literary devices featured in it. That’s no fun.
So I found The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds. Go ahead; laugh at me all you want, but it was really helpful in imagining the events of the story and keeping all the characters straight in my head. I showed it to another kid on the homeschoolers’ team and he laughed at me too, but then he paged through it and went, “Oh, this is kind of cool!” The illustrations are great and it’s even split up into all the different books of the original Odyssey. I wouldn’t suggest that you read it instead of The Odyssey but if you decide to read the original, I think the graphic novel is a good book to read along with it.
And now I am being bidden by my mother to go get dressed up nicely for the competition, so bye! I’ll write about the Academic Bowl for the next post!
Unless we lose spectacularly in all the subjects, in which case I’ll be hiding in a corner, weeping quietly and muttering, “How could I have forgotten the Laestrygonians?! I knew I should’ve picked C…”