From award-winning memoirist and critic, and best-selling author of The Lost: a deeply moving tale of a father and son's transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer's epic masterpiece.
When 81-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician's unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his "one last chance" to learn the great literature he'd neglected in his youth - and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer's great work together - first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son's interpretations, 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. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn's narrative comes to echo the Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar's most triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.
"Mendelsohn is an artful storyteller whose skills are equal to the task of weaving Homer's poem into his own life. In this insightful, tender book, Mendelsohn gracefully marries literary criticism and memoir to describe an intellectual and personal journey that becomes one of profound discovery for both [father and son]. Most impressive are his transitions from scholarly consideration of The Odyssey to intimate stories of his family life, as when the class discussion flows effortlessly into a magical moment, witnessing [his father] Jay as he offers a heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to his wife.... [There are] many wise lessons to be gleaned from this lovely book." (Harvey Freedenberg, BookPage)
"Beguiling...in this memoir, Mendelsohn recounts a freshman class on the Odyssey he taught at Bard College with his father, an 81-year-old computer scientist, sitting in. ...Mendelsohn gradually unwraps layers of timeless meaning in the ancient Greek poem; Homeric heroes offer resonant psychological parallels to a modern family. Mendelsohn weaves trenchant literary analysis and family history into a luminous whole. A gem." (Publishers Weekly)
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Beautiful! Touching! Intelligent!
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