Daniel Mendelsohn: An Odyssey A Father a Son and an Epic



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Cussion in class It was fascinating watching the young undergraduates sparring with an lderly man who could have been their grandfather and Rain (Paper Gods, even fascinating to observe the mutual respect and admiration that developed between them Inssence the Odyssey is a homecoming story of a child going in search of an absent father and starting to learn about him and the world It is a homecoming story It is the story of Telemachus ducation This memoir is the story of Mendelsohn s ducation Like Telemachus Mendelsohn came to know who his father really was From childhood until his mid twenties Mendelsohn only knew his father to be a hard man for whom the value of a pursuit resided in the amount of painful The Replacement Wife exertion it demanded Mendelsohn admitted I felt that if I devoted myself to a career whose training was painful my father might approve of it I thought it wonderful that at thend of this seminar Mendelsohn and his father went on a Mediterranean cruise Retracing the Odyssey On the cruise Mendelsohn had many opportunities to get acuainted with the softer side of his father At cocktail hour Jay sang and charmed the crew on board ship There were tender moments of revelation that were heartwarming On one occasion Mendelsohn reflected I suddenly realized this was who he was a lovely old man filled with charming tales about the thirties and forties the Damned (Witch Hunt era to which the music tinkling out of the piano belonged anra of cleverness and confidence and sass It was as if he were the Great American Songbook A spasm of The Bluebird Bet (Welcome to Tall Pines emotion courses through me something primitive childish This father son odyssey was particularly poignant as unbeknownst to them it was their lastducational journey togetherI will close with Mendelsohn s uote on teaching which he xemplified in his seminar class It was from Fred that I understood that beauty and pleasure are at the center of teaching For the best teacher is the one who wants you to find meaning in the things that have given him pleasure too so that the appreciation of their beauty will outlive him In this way because it arises from an acceptance of the inevitability of death good teaching is like good parenting I recognize that a book like this is not for veryone However if you njoy the classics then this may just be your cup of tea Mendelsohn said of the Odyssey that it is scathingly brilliant I can confidently say this of his memoir too Thank you Professor Mendelsohn Stealth literary criticism Part classics course part father son memoir part travelogue Doctor Mendelsohn s is clearly the voice of a Professor of Classics There s no smoothly swirling Rothian prose here The rigor of his voice may be xplained as we learn about his austere father who believed nothing worth doing should be Reggie easy Might that include the writing or reading of this moving memoir The father Jay takes his son s Odyssey seminar at Bard College one spring Then the two take a 10 day tour on a small cruise ship of The Odyssey s principle Mediterranean sites So the book is a relaxed contemplation of the great book s methods and devices and insight into the present author s relationship with his father a research scientist whombraced his gay son from the first The father is a bit of a curmudgeon not overly so but he can be hi. Terpretations and then during a surprise filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus's famous voyages it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn too Jay's responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last.

I simply loved this book and Bronson Pinchot s narration was gentle and perfect I am a former literature major who woke up to the joys of scholarship while studying the Odyssey in freshman seminar I am going to Greece for the first time this summer with my late 70s parents and like Mendelsohn my relationship with my father has been very close but not always very Switchback easy so perhaps I was perfectly primed for this book And indeed I found the interweaving of memoir and literaryxegesis Marrying Marcus (Virgin Brides, entrancing and I wanted neither the Odyssey nor Mendelsohn s text tond But I don t think you have to have a family trip to Greece on the horizon to have that connection to this Odyssey The book is about the circle and cycle of life about journeys and ndings and the sense of melancholy love and loss is strong And the construction is nearly seamlessSo no you don t have to be a classics scholar just have parents I think to connect to this story The Mendelsohns Daniel and Jay will be much in my mind when I finally make it to Greece this summer And I have been inspired to re read the Odyssey in the xciting new translation as well Like father Like Son A few months ago I read Philip Roth s Patrimony an If Im Found (If I Run endearing diary report of his father s last year and a very refinedxploration of the special bond that always xists between father and son Mendelsohn s book is also autobiographical and like Roth it is a developmental novel gradually the relationship of the son to the father developed starting from the classic motional trio of awe fear and shame Assignment ending in wonder downright admiration and respect Like Roth Mendelsohn discovers all sorts of unsuspected aspects in his father s personality withoutver fully comprehending him a son can never fully understand his father because the father has gone before him the father has always lived so much than the son so that the son can never catch up never know Philosophy of Religion everything The special thing about Mendelsohn s book is that he takes the ancient Greekpic of the Odyssey as a guide That is not surprising when you know that Mendelsohn is a teacher of ancient literature in real life And also that the Odyssey is not only the story of a man Odysseus and his wife Penelope but also of that man and his son Telemachos The nice thing is that at the age of 81 his father suddenly came to attend his son s lessons on the Odyssey at the university and unabashedly commented to the delight of the students Unfortunately it would also be the last year his father come to live just like Roth sIn the book Mendelsohn follows the structure of the Odyssey and constantly alternates between a rather technical but very interesting discussion of the story itself his treatment of this in the seminars with his students his discussions with his father about the story and their shared xperiences during a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea in the trail of Odysseus Thus an alternation of seriousness and fancy which really works well And the most interesting thing is that you regularly see Daniel Mendelsohn surprised very time he gets to know a new aspect of his father and relates it to the ancient Greek story It s a beautiful interaction and a remarkable variation on the classic theme of the Bildungsroman In other words Mendelsohn cle. When The Spirituality Revolution eighty one year old Jay Mendelsohn decides tonroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly motional as it is intellectual For Jay a retired research scientist this return to the classroom is his one last chance to.

Verly managed to write an interesting and ndearing novel about a father son relationship or rather the other way round but at the same time it offers a great illustration of the power of classical literature Magnificent 35 stars An Odyssey A Father a Son and an Epic is an immensely satisfying and deeply moving memoir of a son s search for his father The author Daniel Mendelsohn is a Classics Professor at Bard College in New York In the Spring semester 2011 Mendelsohn s 81 year old father Jay a retired research scientist and Mathematics professor asked to audit his undergraduate semester on the Odyssey Now that struck me as a daunting proposition For sixteen weeks therefore from January to May Jay came to class and participated in discussion with a bunch of undergraduatesJay said he was not going to talk in class but in the very first class he challenged the view that Odysseus was a hero Odysseus was not a real hero because he s a liar and he cheated on his wife He also lost all his men and all twelve ship What kind of leader loses all his men You call that a hero Oh this was fun for me to read but a nightmare for Mendelsohn His reaction however was priceless Yep I said a little defiantly I felt like I was Economies and Cultures eleven years old again and Odysseus was a naughty schoolmate whom I d decided I was going to stand byven if it meant being punished along with him I remembered little of the Odyssey What I remembered better was the poem Ulysses by Alfred Tennyson which I loved It offered a glimpse of Odysseus life after he returned home to Ithaca I trooped along with Jay to class and relished this opportunity to be taught by a Classics scholar Designing with Web Standards extraordinaire Book by book Mendelsohn had his students and menthralled with Homer s literary magic I appreciated his systematic approach to the Sadies Surrender (Oyster Harbor, epic poem beginning with anxposition on the Structure Of The Nucleus etymology of words voyage vacation travel The Odyssey I learned is a nostos narrative nostos means Homecoming It is combined with another Greek word algos which means pain Hence the pain associated with longing for home is nostalgia Mendelsohn also introduced the ring composition a narrative techniue in Greek literature that wove the present and the past together which mirrored thelaborate circling in space and time in the Odyssey He drew attention to the long six beat oom pah pah meter also known as the dactylic hexameter in Homer s twelve thousand one hundred and ten lines If the reader did not mind some deviation from the memoir it was all First Anthology extremely fascinating and rewarding Mendelssohn provided an absolutely gorgeous analysis of the Odyssey a phenomenal literary criticism It was a veritable treat to sit in this seminarLike all good teachers do Mendelsohn asked searching uestions that directed attention to the themes in Homer s poem Do heroes cry What might a heroism of survival look like What makes a good marriage Why did Odysseus choose mortal Penelope and not the goddess Calypso How does one recognize someone after one can no longer rely on physical appearance When thexterior the face and body have changed beyond recognition what remains Is there an inner I that survives time What is the difference between who we are and what others know about us These uestions generated lively dis. Learn the great literature he'd neglected in his youth and ven a final opportunity to fully understand his son a writer and classicist But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men xplore Homer's great work together first in the classroom where Jay persistently challenges his son's in.