Friday, April 20, 2018

CUTTING IN: HOMER



Core texts of the TWT yearlong "Homer" reading project. Top, l to r: The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson; The Iliad by Homer, translated by Caroline Alexander; Homeric Hymns attributed to Homer, translated by Sarah Ruden. Middle, l to r: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood; Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad by Alice Oswald; An Oresteia: Agamenon by Aiskhylos; Elektra by Sophokles; Orestes by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson. Bottom, l to r: The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason; War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad by Christopher Logue; The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander.

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Some short reports of initial readings of these core texts.

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

A terse and taut translation that seems much more faithful to the spirit of Homer's Greek than prior translations, in so many ways. This is the first translation into English by a female translator and it is welcomed with open arms. Wilson's rendering of Homer's dactylic hexameter into the preferred meter of English epic poetry, iambic pentameter, makes this version truly sing.

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The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

This book is trying too hard to prove a point and/or push a particular viewpoint. This is unfortunate because the premise is intriguing. Many of the chorus chapters are especially horrible, written in uninspired, insipid lines of poetry and presented in forced, awkward rhymes.

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The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

As imaginative as the original, these short stories serve as alternate tales of Odysseus and some of the the other characters of The Odyssey and The Iliad. Imaginative, existential, playful, postmodern, thought-provoking. This is what The Penelopiad should have been.

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The Iliad by Homer, translated by Caroline Alexander

This translation of The Iliad has longer and looser lines than Wilson's Odyssey, but it is still poetic and faithful, although also questioning.

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Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad by Alice Oswald

This is less translation than reimaginings of the death scenes of each warrior interspersed with the similes of the poem, the latter of which are mostly represented in a repeated double format. Stripped of the narrative pieces of its source material, this is a completely different beast. Quite fascinating.

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War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad by Christopher Logue

A radical reimagining of large sections of the poem by a practicing poet. Logue brings his own voice to Homer's story while still packing a punch. The death of Patroclus at the hand of the god Apollo is especially striking. (pun intended)

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Homeric Hymns attributed to Homer, translated by Sarah Ruden

The Homeric Hymns, as translated by Sarah Ruden, do truly sing to the Muses. Her eleven-syllabled lines are quite pleasant on tongue and ear.

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An Oresteia: Agamenon by Aiskhylos; Elektra by Sophokles; Orestes by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson

I have a complicated relationship with Anne Carson. I absolutely love some of her work and loathe some of the rest. At one time I wasn't sure of these translations of plays about  members of the House of Atreus. I've grown to love Carson's translations.

Carson plays a bit loose at times with these texts and their translations, but the contemporary language and colloquial phrasing usually work.

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The War That Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander

This is the book that Alexander wrote regarding the history and narrative of The Iliad, and which prompted her to eventually translate the poem. It is well-researched and well-written.




Thursday, April 19, 2018

ALOE GLOE



"Crisp Aloe" Aloe Gloe organic aloe water • tasting notes

Everything about this screams canned pears syrup. It smells like the sugary syrup that accompanied a can of halved or quartered pears. It tastes like it too. The only difference is that it isn't as thick as that syrup, so the mouthfeel doesn't match the taste.

It's not bad, it's just a bit strange.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

THE DOG



There is a new actor in the role of The Dog on Troy's Work Table. A few weeks ago, Abby the (Wiener) Dog died after a nearly yearlong struggle with an enlarged heart, congestive heart failure, and problems with her "lung field."

I had planned on waiting a while longer before casting another canine to play the role of The Dog, but then I found Banjo (who was then going by the name of Jeff). He is a rescue dog. He is a three-year old chihuahua mix. He uses his ears to express what is going on in his brain and thought processes: fully erect, 3/4, 1/2, and flattened to his skull, with the occasional one ear at 3/4 and the other at full mast.

He has been shadowing us since he came home on the afternoon of Friday 4/6. He seems really appreciative to have a new and quieter home after a few months in a shelter.

Just as Abby broke many of the stereotypes I associated with dachshunds, I think Banjo is going to do the same for chihuahuas.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

ALO EXPOSED



I decided to make the best of my new diet and rate some of the things I'm getting to test out.

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Original + Honey ALO Exposed aloe vera juice drink • tasting notes

It looks like slightly cloudy water with small chunks of clear translucent slime. They try to hid that in a translucent green plastic bottle.

It smells like cherry and grape Kool Aid.

It tastes like cherry and grape Kook Aid.

The mouthfeel is a bit slimy, primarily due to the chunks of aloe pulp floating about.

This is more of what I expected when I first tried aloe water. I like the flavor profile of this a bit better than my first go. The little slimy chunks of aloe pulp make this a bit fun to drink. And it is more of what I expect when I hear the phrase "aloe water."

It's not beer or tea, but with both the novelty of the pulp and the fruity flavor, I could see myself drinking this from time to time, even when not a necessity.

Friday, March 30, 2018

ALOE GLOE



It appears that I get to limp into another decade of life. Recent health issues have drastically changed my diet, hopefully temporarily. All of my favorite foods and beverages have become problematic. I can't have donuts, hot dogs, chocolate, or beer. I likewise can't have soda or tea, as well as a bunch of other foods. So I am having to make adjustments.

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But I decided to make the best of my new diet and rate some of the things I'm getting to test out.

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White Grape Aloe Gloe organic aloe water • tasting notes

It looks just like water.

It smells like grape Kool Aid and shampoo.

It tastes like shampoo (without the soapiness) or lotion (without the soapiness), aloe vera, and grape Kool Aid.

The mouthfeel is a bit oily. It's slightly thicker than tap water on the tongue, although one wouldn't notice any different properties with the naked eye.

It's not unpleasant, but it's kind of a weird thing to be drinking. If it helps my digestive track, though, then I can tolerate it from time to time.

Cheers!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

FARE THEE WELL, FENRIS



Twelve hours ago, just as St. Patrick's Day started, I had to say farewell to my best friend.

The good thing is that I got to hold her as she died from an overdose of anesthesia, slightly prematurely and with less suffering than she would have naturally.

The last week of Abby the (Wiener) Dog's life was one that we were able to spend together, since I had a planned staycation that happened to coincide with a possible stroke and subsequent decline in Abby's health and quality of life. We spent a lot of time napping together and snuggling on the couch while I read poetry to her. She didn't eat most of the week, losing both weight and an interest in even having treats. But she still wanted to be held, so I did just that.

Once she was vomiting on a regular basis (water and bile, mostly, since she wasn't eating) and her energy was quickly waning, she and I visited the emergency vet so that she didn't have to suffer any longer.

A couple of days before she died, we took our last bike ride on the Riverwalk Trail. She sat in her trailer and spent the entire trip sniffing everything she could as she passed scents and aromas and smells for a final time. On her last day of life, she found enough energy to bark at and chase after crows that had landed in her backyard. She was feisty to the end. She will be greatly missed.

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Fare thee well, little Fenris Wolf. Until we meet again...

Friday, March 02, 2018

THREE THREADS



There are three threads I'm currently pursuing in my Homer/ancient Greek "cutting in" reading project.

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Thread One.

I am reading The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel by Nikos Kazantzakis. I've completed Book One (of Twenty-Four). It is very slow going because the language is so rich, dense, and chewy. My guess is that is due to both the original Greek and many metaphors that Kazantzakis wrote in, as well as his translator Kimon Friar (a fellow Greek and a poet in his own right) trying to capture the words, rhythms, and images of Kazantzakis in English as best as possible.

In other words, I'm reading this epic poem much differently than I did either The Odyssey (in a glorious spare translation by Emily Wilson) and The Iliad (through a fascinating translation by Caroline Alexander, as well as two simultaneous readings of poetic "versions" of the same—Memorial by Alice Oswald and War Music by Christopher Logue—each with its own interpretation of Homer's original text).

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Thread Two.

I discovered that one of my local libraries has the film versions of two plays by Euripides, as filmed by theater and film director Michael Cacoyannis—The Trojan Women (1971) and Iphigenia (1977). Both films were based on earlier stage productions that Cacoyannis had directed. I'm looking forward to delving into both. One looks at the start of the Trojan War from the Greek side of things (Iphigenia), while the other looks at the end of the same war from the conquered Trojan vantage point (The Trojan Women).

Having seen a live stage production of The Trojan Women, I'm really looking forward to both films.

(I watched the first half-hour of The Trojan Women during lunch today and it is spectacular and gut-wrenching. Katharine Hepburn as the Trojan queen Hecuba and Geneviève Bujold as her daughter Cassandra were powerful performances I won't soon forget and am hoping to continue watching tonight or tomorrow.)

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Thread Three.

A few years ago, I picked up a hardcover copy of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes at a library book sale. It was obvious the book had never been read, which is how I'm sure it came to end up being removed from circulation. Similarly, I've yet to read it. It has sat on a bookshelf of my home library, untouched.

But now it will get a good reading. Apparently, large sections of it focus on The Iliad and how the "gods" of that epic poem are auditory hallucinations from one side of the brain to the other side of the brain of the heroes who are being spoken to, due to the fact that the rosy-fingered dawn of what we think of as modern consciousness (and the internal monologue and voices that we think of as our own) had yet to fully emerge. Likewise, how the shift to dawning consciousness has taken place by the time we get to The Odyssey, and so the relationship between Odysseus and the gods is different in his journeys than when we encounter him on the battlefield of the Trojan plains. (And then I'm pretty sure that the sequel of Kazantzakis will push Odysseus further along in experiences of consciousness as he engages existential crises and encounters "versions" of Don Quixote, Buddha, and Jesus Christ.)

Monday, February 26, 2018

THE ODYSSEY: A MODERN SEQUEL



Greek edition of The Odyssey: A Modern Translation by Nikos Kazantzakis (1938) and translated into English by Kimon Friar (1958).

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After simultaneously reading The Iliad by Homer (translated by Caroline Alexander); War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad by Christopher Logue; and Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad, I decided I needed to head in a different direction for a bit. It was primarily prompted by the fact that I'm having battlefield nightmares in the patches of sleep I've been getting on recent nights filled with reading and insomnia and more reading and more insomnia. Considering that I don't typically remember my dreams and that these were rather vivid, I thought I would delve back into the tales of Odysseus and away from the plain of Troy.

I remembered that I have a copy of The Odyssey: A Modern Translation by Nikos Kazantzakis, a book I found in a used book store in 2015, for just a few dollars.

I haven't read it yet, instead using it for the occasional bibliomantic "divination" and the beautiful lines I encounter when randomly opening its pages. But now is the time to take the plunge and add another book influenced and inspired by the work of Homer to my current "cutting in" reading project.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

END(S)



"Achilles Tying Hector's Body to His Chariot," vase, circa 510 BC, by an unknown Attic Black-Figure vase painter.

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As I've been reading Caroline Alexander's translation of The Iliad, I've posted a brief synopsis of each book I complete on Twitter. Here are my collected Twitter synopses of books twenty-one through twenty-four.

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BOOK 21

12 captured for blood debt. Lykaon begs. River Scamander attacks Achilles. God fights god. Trojans retreat.

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BOOK 22

Priam beseeches Hector to come into Ilion. Running and pursuit. Hector falls at Achilles' hand. Keening.

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BOOK 23

Funeral feast. Shade of Patroclus visits. Funeral pyre. Chariot races. "Painful boxing." More games & prizes.

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BOOK 24

12 days of dragging Hector's corpse. Eagle omen. Priam supplicates. Ransom. Hector returned. Funeral. End.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

DAWN


Dawn shines bright. North Hill of Puyallup, Washington.