Monday, February 11, 2013

Most Surprising Classic: February Classics Club Meme

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Classics Club meme for February. This month's question (submitted by yours truly) is "What classic has most surprised you so far, and why?" I'm looking forward to seeing which books you found to be surprisingly good (or surprisingly bad.)

This year has been a very surprising reading year for me, so there are lots of books I could choose. I was expecting Dubliners to be just a boring book I had to read before I could get to Ulysses, but it turned out to be one of my favorite books of all time. I was surprised that Ulysses, which I expected to be completely impossible, was actually a really enjoyable reading experience, even if there were times that I wasn't sure what was going on. (Stay tuned for a review of Ulysses; I promise I will write it eventually.) I was surprised by the emotional honesty of The Plague, the density of Yeats's poems, and the pure enjoyability of Othello. It's been a year of surprises, but when it comes to the most surprising book I've read so far, there's really no competition. Hands down, the winner of that award is The Odyssey.

What's so surprising about The Odyssey? Basically everything. I was expecting The Odyssey to be one of my least favorite books on the list. It's old. It's a long poem. Everyone thinks it's super boring. Let's just say I wasn't exactly excited to start it. But once I finally decided to pick it up I fell in love with its quiet beauty and emotional resonance. I was expecting a tale of adventure and daring deeds, but what I got was a warm, tender story bathed in the loving glow of home and family. In each place that Odysseus stops, the beautiful descriptions of home life made me understand exactly why he wanted to get back to Ithaca. I yearned for home with Odysseus, and was elated when he and his wife were finally reunited. I never expected an epic classical poem to strike such a chord in my heart or to be so emotionally resonant, but it absolutely was. On top of that, the poetry was incredibly beautiful, no doubt partially due to Fitzgerald's translation, so I forgot my original fear of reading a long poem and sank into the beautiful language and the engrossing story. I never expected to like The Odyssey, so my sadness at putting it down was totally surprising.

What books have surprised you so far, either good or bad? I look forward to reading your posts and your comments.

6 comments:

  1. That's so interesting! I don't think I've ever heard such high praise of The Odyssey (or Ulysses, for that matter). I really need to add it to my list...

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  2. I studied The Odyssey when I did Classical Civilisation and I loved it deeply, especially in contrast to The Iliad which I found more formulaic and harder to get into the rhythm of. I'm due a re-read this year I think. :)

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    1. I haven't read The Iliad yet, but I've definitely heard that it's a bit harder to get into than The Odyssey. It's on my list, so I'm hoping it will surprise me.

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  3. I have read the adventures of Ulysses in unabridged versions for children when I was young. So I have always expected The Odyssey to be full of action and incident. However, the rest of your commentary is surprising. I have it on my Classics List too, and hope to get to it some time. In the meantime....wow! Should I give Dubliners a try?...

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    1. Yeah, I expected The Odyssey to be more of an adventure story, so I was very surprised at how much it focused on other things.
      And yes, you should absolutely read Dubliners. It was totally awesome and I would recommend it to everyone.

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  4. Awww. Your excitement over The Odyssey makes me want to read it! I tried The Illiad in college and it was sooooooo long and boring. Maybe trying out The Odyssey on my own would be a different experience.

    Great question by the way!

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