The man of twists and turns deals mainly with beggars and servants this week, sometimes lying to them (although he also feeds Eumaeus well), sometimes helping them, sometimes beating the tar out of them, sometimes, in sort of proto-slapstick, escalating an insult fight and ducking a chair that is thrown at him so that it hits a servant instead. Although as class conscious as I try to be, I didn't think it was very funny if that was the author's intent. The poor wine steward was just doing his job and there's no compensation for injured workers. There's probably not even time off.
But mainly Odysseus spends this week talking to beggars and servants for a very very long time. This is, as Sedge foresaw, kind of a dry spell in the text in my humble opinion (and, not to pat myself on the back, but I think it was wise to take the back 1/3rd of the book in two big gulps.)
We've passed through most of the magical bit into the domestic part of the story. Although the gods are still hanging around, particularly Athena who is still watching over Telemachus. Also there are weird omens like the passage with the eagle carrying the goose and the following Book's hawk with a dove parallel passage, means Odysseus is going to return and clean out the suitors. Laurie and I just tried to talk Gina out of reading omens a few hours ago. I don't think it's a helpful practice or an accurate way to view reality, but I'm willing to suspend my objections for the sake of the story. Because we can be fairly certain that the omen will prove true in this case as they do only in works of fiction.
So, the lesson of this week's reading would be something along the lines of "Don't let your kids grow up to be servants anywhere near Odysseus" but he lies about his identity so often that it's kind of hard to even draw that lesson.
I will say again this week though, I love love love the Robert Fagles translation and if I had it to do over I would have insisted on everyone getting that version. I am a Fagles convert.
It might be a little unfair to characterize this week's reading as one of those passages where nothing happens. Certainly a lot happens. In fact, I'm finding myself shifting yet again on what this epic poem is all about. I came into it expecting an epic poem, found it highly comedic and more than a little romantic as well as, as I mentioned last week, sort of a "whopper story" which I still think comprises the first half of the text. But I think the overarching theme is completely different than anything I'd ever imagined or hear about The Odyssey before. I submit to you my hypothesis that the book is actually a coming of age, rite of passage, bildungsroman of Telemachus. In fact, I caught myself remembering Johnny Cash's A Boy Named Sue and thinking "wouldn't it be awesome if this poem was really a labor of love from some ancient father who went away to war as a fantastical explanation to his son as to why their life went the way it went?" You know, something like "Dad, I'm almost grown, about to start growing facial hair! Where were you all of my childhood? Where were you when all of those men were courting Mom and eating all of our food?" And Odysseus busts out this epic poem.
Which is probably a fine indicator of an overactive imagination, but I say all of this to point out the sophistication of the piece. There are so many possibilities to The Odyssey and truly it could be any or all of these things and more. We like to think ourselves so advanced and sophisticated, but I don't know of many contemporary works that are this leveled.
Odysseus and Telemachus are reunited and I would argue that this is the point where we enter the third act of the story.
In spite of the slower bits, I've enjoyed this book tremendously. I hope you have as well. If you thought this week was a little slow at parts, just be glad it wasn't Beowulf. So, next week we'll finish The Odyssey.