Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unrelated Segments

Tonight, right now, for the first time in, I don't know, weeks or months, I feel comfortable. Must be the long weekend.


On The Iliad and The Odyssey: I can understand the typical lit-crit opinion that The Iliad is generally a more cohesive, unified work than The Odyssey. I won't even bother debating it. It's a fact. Having granted that, though, I'd argue that, in terms of theme, plot, and character, The Iliad sucks hard when compared to The Odyssey. I mean, really, what have we got with The Iliad? One dimensional characters: Achilles, as the main character, is pretty representative--honor,chicks, glory, that's all these guys are into. They cry like little girls when they don't get their way. What the fuck are the Greeks doing in Troy? Well, the sacred guest/host relationship was violated when Paris took off with Helen, the wife of Menelaus (who happened to be the brother of Agamemnon, the king). Uncool, to be sure, but it's not like anyone in this story actually gives a shit about Helen. No, it's the principle of it. And this is what we have all through The Iliad. Wars, battles, and individual conflicts arising because of fucking abstract principles. And where do these abstractions lead? They lead to death, of course, because that's all they represent.

Odysseus is my kinda guy, and his story is, as far as I'm concerned, infinitely more interesting and educational than that of Achilles. Some will argue that the character of Achilles grows during the course of The Iliad, but I don't see it. He was born and died an asshole. (If you know the books, I'd also remind you that, for all intents and purposes, nothing happens in The Iliad.) Odysseus grows and grows and grows. And at every stage of his growth we see that it's not like the earlier stages have been rejected; rather, earlier stages of growth are taken up and incorporated into the new ones. The guy who returns home and slaughters the suitors to take back what is his couldn't have done it if he weren't both a mean-ass motherfucker AND one clever sonofabitch. Odysseus has something that Achilles doesn't: experience. Odysseus knows when to run or fight. Odysseus has had lots of women. Odysseus ate the lotus. Odysseus debated a goddess (Athena), even after incurring the wrath of a god (Poseidon). In the Trojan War "pre-history" Odysseus was the only one who didn't want to go, but it was his idea that won the fucking war. I could go on. Sorry, but Achilles has nothing, nothing on this motherfucker.

Achilles died a young man. For nothing. Odysseus died an old man. With everything. That's really all that needs to be said about this. I guess I might add this: these two stories are like the differences between Plato and Aristotle. Plato's much easier to read, but Aristotle has a lot more substance.


I bought a new pair of pants (or something) today. They're those ones that the younger guys wear in warm weather--too short to be "pants," too long to be "shorts." Actually my wife picked them out.


  1. Glenn,
    An odd thing: On the way home from shopping we stopped at a supermarket to pick up some beer. They had Budweiser at a really low price, so tonight that's what I'm drinking. Not my favorite, but American beer has an interesting quality--I can drink gallons and remain (relatively) functional. I'm on the shochu now, though...

  2. I wish they would have just explained it this way when I was in college.

  3. Hark at you with your trendy three-quarter-length trews!

    I confess to never having actually read Homer. I do remember some Plato from uni and Pliny the Elder's letters from high school - in Latin! And that is my classical education, probably more Roman than Greek.

  4. This post should be dedicated to your wife:

    She picks a pair of trendy paints for you > you feel surprisingly comfortable > manhood grows on you > Achilles and Odysseus are reborn under your diligent fingers.

    Women makes the world go round ;-)

  5. "Unrelated Segments" ? hahahaha...

  6. Sussah,
    Believe it or not, this is almost exactly the way I understood it from college. I guess it helped that I was a Classics major, and that the literary Odysseus was a focus of my Master's thesis, and that my thesis adviser was a Homeric scholar (among other things--including pretty cool guy; he was a German/Canadian, Classicist, well-schooled in Philosophy, and a Nietzsche scholar; before coming to Japan I (a "natural" citizen of Canada) had him endorse my passport--I wanted to express gratitude to him and have a laugh; we both "got" it.).

    The pants are very comfortable (and, I hope, trendy!).
    I've always been much more Greek than Roman, so much so that I'd be more likely to utter "It's all fucking Latin to me!" when I don't understand something.

    For a moment I thought you were going to say "Achilles and Odysseus are reborn under your *new pants*". I'm glad you didn't say that! ;-)