You Should Read This: The Odyssey by Homer

Cover of The Odyssey by Homer. Accompanies review by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of that man skilled in all ways of contending, the wanderer, harried for years on end, after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.

I read The Odyssey in college. I’d been aware of it before then, in that way any bright teen reader is: one runs into its figures here and there or else the whole thing gets boiled down into a chapter in a book on Greek mythology. (I believe I’d also seen it referenced in Ray Harryhausen movies.)

I read it for a class, one of the brief ones squeezed in between semesters, a one-credit class called On the Road, which focused on (naturally enough) stories of the road, including Kerouac’s book.

What: The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus as he makes his way back through a series of dangerous encounters to his wife Penelope, who is facing off dangers of her own at home.

Who: Anyone who wants to be familiar with one of the fountains so many stories, in so many art forms, are drawn from should read this.

Why: Because it’s a classic. It’s good for you AND it’s a really good story.

When: Read it when you want to return to the bones of writing. Read it in conjunction with Robert Grave’s Homer’s Daughter, which posits a different author for it.

Where and how: Read it aloud, the way it’s meant to be heard. Read it in one of the many good translations that treat it like the poetry it is, such as Robert Fitzgerald’s. Or if you’re privileged enough to know ancient Greek, let it sing to you in that form.


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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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