An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic

 
9780007545124: An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic

From award-winning memoirist and critic, and bestselling 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 eighty-one-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.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

DANIEL MENDELSOHN is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. His books include the international best seller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and many other honors; a memoir, The Elusive Embrace, a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year; a translation, with commentary, of the complete poems of C. P. Cavafy; and two collections of essays, How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken and Waiting for the Barbarians. He teaches literature at Bard College.

Review:

“Rich, vivid, a blood-warm book . . . a deeply moving tale of a father and son’s transformative journey in reading—and reliving—the Odyssey. Mendelsohn wears his learning lightly yet superbly. What catches you off guard about this memoir is how moving it is: it has many things to say not only about Homer’s epic poem, but about fathers and sons. Mendelsohn has written a book that’s accessible to nearly any curious reader. The book partakes of at least four genres: classroom drama; travel writing; biographical memoir; literary criticism. Revealing and funny . . . Mendelsohn makes Homer’s epic shine in your mind.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“My favorite classicist once again combines meticulous literary investigation with warm and wrenching human emotion—books like these are why I love reading.” —Lee Child
 
“When Daniel Mendelsohn’s mathematician father lands in his son’s Homer seminar at Bard, the older man sets in motion an odyssey both hilarious and heartfelt. Father and son start in the pages of an epic, board a ship to follow the hero’s path through the Mediterranean, and finally end where all our stories do. An Odyssey melds genius-level lit crit with gut-level moving memoir. Beautiful and wise.” —Mary Karr
 
“Tender . . . complex and moving: a book that has much to say about fathers and sons. On one level, An Odyssey elegantly retells the story of Mendelsohn’s Odyssey course, complete with all the gags, competition, and good cheer of an intergenerational bromance. [But] it dives deeper, excavating a portrait of Mendelsohn’s special student, his father: his lonely childhood, his early brilliance, his forfeiture of Latin for a life of numbers. Why a man so warm could be so cold. As Mendelsohn unpeels the layers of his father’s life and education, he dramatizes the beauty—and tedium—of the classroom. The reality of instruction is messy; Mendelsohn happily shows us how difficult the transference of passion can be. In this way, the students become supporting characters to the book’s hero, Mendelsohn’s father, who lurks in the corner like a hero in disguise. There is but one ending to the book; within a year, Jay would die, and so Mendelsohn’s journey—indeed like Homer’s—would be undertaken after the fact, when something remained to be learned. It is a remarkable feat of narration that such a forbiddingly erudite writer can show us how necessary this education is, how provisional, how frightening, how comforting.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe 
 
“By turns family memoir, brilliant literary criticism, and a narrative of education. Most of all, An Odyssey is a love story. Mendelsohn makes his way through the text of the Odyssey, but also tells a larger, personal story—of his family. Both odysseys focus on quests, recognitions, homecomings. The book asks: How can you really know anyone else? A truth everywhere acknowledged in Mendelsohn’s odyssey is that everyone has a story, just as every hero has a flaw, and that everyone needs stories to get through life. Mendelsohn is the professor every college kid dreams about: learned, sympathetic, encouraging and challenging in equal measure. Like Homer, Mendelsohn makes us grateful for journeys, and the companions—especially our families—who accompany us along our individual and collective paths. . . . In An Odyssey, he reels us in with a storyteller’s strongest gifts: passion, clarity, and timing.” —Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating. . . intensely moving. There are many moments to cherish in this tangled and passionate investigation. Mendelsohn’s exploration is [both] a personal family memoir and a critical report on Homer’s epic, and the two facets illuminate each other. Mendelsohn is an imaginative teacher, and the discussion of the Odyssey sparkles. The Mediterranean cruise that father and son take pays off in surprising ways; we get a haunting glimpse of the fear that the end of your journey means finis, the hope residual in permanent postponement. Best of all are the various small recognitions that combine to build the late-blossoming intimacy between father and son. This is an honest, and loving, account of the improbable odyssey that gave them this one last deeply satisfying adventure together.” —Peter Green, The New York Review of Books
 
“Heartfelt, touching . . . a dazzlingly rich story of identity and recognition from an exacting critic and award-winning memoirist. . .When his father enrolled in Mendelsohn’s undergraduate seminar, Mendelsohn didn’t know his father would only have a year to live. The course, and the cruise retracing Odyssey’s voyage to Ithaca a few months later, set in motion an emotional journey neither man could have anticipated.  With each new foray in his oeuvre, Mendelsohn discovers deeper truths about those we think we know, including ourselves. Mendelsohn’s intelligence glitters on the page.” —Rajat Singh, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Mendelsohn is a force. His sentences are freighted with knowledge, observation, and feeling. Both the classroom experience—where Mendelsohn’s father Jay serves as a counterpoint to Mendelsohn’s sharp reading of the story—and the boat excursion they take offer opportunities: his father slowly sheds his carapace and gives himself over to the adventure, revealing a side that we—and his son—may not have seen before. Mendelsohn is an encouraging teacher with enthusiasm and wonderful energy. But perhaps most significantly, readers come to understand him as a man with long-borne emotions, for his relationship with his father has not been the easiest. [This] father-son journey with Homer as guide [is] no buddy story, but a hard-fought, hard-won, late-life conciliation.” —Peter Lewis, Christian Science Monitor
 
“Fascinating . . . Mendelsohn expertly examines the Odyssey with depth and classical acumen, extracting meaning from even its most subtle moments. He explores [its] historical importance with the comfortable clarity of someone who has spent decades immersed in Greek literature. He details his own relationship with the ancient poem, and he culls from the narrative many insights into his own familial bonds, specifically with his father. But the most entertaining part may be the classroom scenes. By the end of the semester, Mendelsohn’s father had become part of the class and his presence leads to a revealing and dramatic moment. An Odyssey is a journey worth taking.” —Jonathan Russell Clark, San Francisco Chronicle

 “Moving . . . a surprising piece of art—a masterful memoir of reading, teaching and learning; a book as full of twists and turns as its subject, often beautiful too. The Homeric questions about fidelity, heroism and survival are elevated from Mendelsohn’s seminar by the relationship between the two men. This is a story of reconciling a scientist and an artist; Jay, the man of calculus, comes to influence both his son and his fellow pupils. As well as a contribution to the art of memoir, An Odyssey is a vivid defence of the close rereading of a classical text, the tiny questions from which bigger pictures become clear.” —Peter Stothard, The Financial Times

“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

 “Fascinating . . . by turns cerebral, lively and poignant. Mendelsohn has achieved an enviable renown as essayist, literary critic and author of autobiographical explorations undergirded by insights from classic texts. In Homer’s Odyssey, Telemachus, now 20, is searching for the father he has never known; likewise, while teaching a course on the Odyssey, Mendelsohn discovers that the classroom becomes a way to better understand his cantankerous father. In lesser hands, this sort of parallelism would seem gimmicky, but not here. It’s clear that Mendelsohn’s Socratic method of teaching (via dialogue rather than lecture) forces everyone, including himself, to see things with fresh eyes. Every step of the way, An Odyssey charts a remarkable journey made indelible by Mendelsohn’s elegant prose. —Dan Cryer, Newsday
 
“Rich. . . surprising, seamless. Mendelsohn is perhaps the most accessible contemporary ambassador of the classics; An Odyssey makes his most convincing case to date for their vital necessity. The book argues that Homer’s classic may be, more than anything else, a family saga.  In An Odyssey Mendelsohn places himself in the Telemachus role to ponder his relationship to his own father, who, like many fathers seems to have at some point drifted away. This book is as much tribute to the magic that can occur in the classroom as an unlikely tale of a father and son’s spiritual reunion. It is an adventure in criticism and in familial reckoning, telling the story of how Daniel and his father get to know each other in the last year of his father’s life. Mendelsohn takes us through the Odyssey alongside his class, meanwhile drawing comparisons between his and his father’s journeys, and those of Odysseus and Telemachus. Mendelsohn has honed a method of mixing memoir and criticism to reflect on the problems of contemporary life through the lens of the Greek classics. What’s remarkable is the extent to which the Odyssey truly does help him—and us—understand our lives.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, Bookforum
 
★ “Enlightening—engaging, gripping and deeply moving . . . Mendelsohn explores the enduring relevance of Homer’s Odyssey through a memoir tracing the complex relationship between father and son.” —Library Journal (starred review)
 
“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
 
★ “Sharply intelligent. . . A frequent contributor to the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review, Mendelsohn is also a classics scholar. His father, a retired mathematician, had been interested in the classics during his school days and decided to continue his education by studying with his son . . . Ultimately, this book [is] about what they learn about each other—and what they can never know about each other. The author uses a close reading of the epic to illuminate the mysteries of the human condition; he skillfully, subtly interweaves textual analysis [with] the lessons of life outside it . . . A well-told story that underscores the power of storytelling.”Kirkus, starred review
 
“There are a handful of books that have captured the pleasure and romance of [the classics]. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History was one. This is another. What happens in this book isn’t really its point; it’s more about the telling than the tale. And the telling is breathtaking. Homer has a phrase for those who can speak bewitchingly: they have ‘wingèd words’. Mendelsohn has wingèd words.” —Catherine Nixey, The Times (UK)
 
“A brilliant new memoir . . . richer and deeper than Mendelsohn’s previous work. At its core, it is a funny, loving portrait of a difficult but loving parent: Mendelsohn’s father, Jay, who is, like [the Homeric hero] Odysseus and perhaps all of us, polytropos: “many-sided” or “much-turning.” Mendelsohn sets an account of the Homeric Odyssey alongside a nuanced portrait of his own complicated familial and quasi-familial relationships, including a vivid picture of Mendelsohn’s anger, anxieties and embarrassments about his father. The book shows us how his desire to become a classicist was shaped in part by the desire to please his father, and how he shares some of his father’s need to be always right. Most powerfully, Mendelsohn contrasts his account of Homer with his father’s more critical response . . . the meeting of the two perspectives leads to a far richer reading of the poem. The fault-lines mapped in the disagreements of father and son correspond to some of the most fascinating interpretative questions of The Odyssey itself. Mendelsohn is a perceptive literary critic and a self-consciously elegant writer. An Odyssey is a stellar contribution to the genre of memoirs about reading—literary analysis and the personal stories are woven together in a way that feels both artful and natural. A thoughtful book from which non-classicists will learn a great deal about Homer.” —Emily Wilson, The Guardian (UK) 

“Spellbinding . . . multi-layered, inclusive. . . With bardic capacity, Mendelsohn tells a story that is heroic in scope yet distinctly humble in manner. Mendelsohn's keen, penetrating observations plumb the micro-emotions of the several stories interwoven here. Slowly, painstakingly and with abiding, warm humor, Mendelsohn pursues reconciliation with his prickly father, who becomes a cantankerous student in Mendelsohn’s seminar at Bard College. The book’s magic is in moving from topic to topic, setting to setting, insight to insight, ancient to modern over what is sometimes no more than a paragraph break, and with no creaking of the narrative machinery. A meditation on filial love as candid, tender and in its own way ruthless as its counterparts in the Bible, Shakespeare and Homer . . . written with style as remarkable and flexible as the Odyssey, with sentences Proustian in complexity yet lucid and balanced . . . both dense and fleet, and wholly captivating.” —Tim Pfaff, The Bay Area Reporter

 “A memorable mixture of literature and life. . . One of the students in Mendelsohn's spring undergraduate seminar on Homer's Odyssey was quite different from the others: Mendelsohn's own father. Classroom discussions of Odysseus’ long, ...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Quantity Available: 5
Seller:
GreatBookPrices
(Columbia, MD, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # 20131328-n

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 17.24
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 2.64
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
Published by Harper Collins India
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Quantity Available: 20
Seller:
BookVistas
(New Delhi, DELHI, India)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Collins India. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # Harper-9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 15.20
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.69
From India to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Daniel Mendelsohn
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom (2017)
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2017 From the award-winning, best-selling writer: a deeply moving tale of a father and son s transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer s epic masterpiece. When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enrol in the undergraduate seminar on the Odyssey that his son Daniel 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 understand his son. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that follow, as 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 legendary voyages - it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too. For Jay s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the Daniel 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 writer s most revelatory entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 20.26
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Daniel Mendelsohn
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom (2017)
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, United Kingdom, 2017. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2017 From the award-winning, best-selling writer: a deeply moving tale of a father and son s transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer s epic masterpiece. When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enrol in the undergraduate seminar on the Odyssey that his son Daniel 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 understand his son. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that follow, as 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 legendary voyages - it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too. For Jay s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the Daniel 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 writer s most revelatory entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration. Bookseller Inventory # AA89780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 20.73
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
Published by Harper Collins India
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Quantity Available: 20
Seller:
A - Z Books
(New Delhi, DELHI, India)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Harper Collins India. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # Harper-9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 15.20
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 5.86
From India to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
Published by William Collins
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Sunshine Book Store
(Wilmington, DE, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description William Collins. Book Condition: New. 0007545126 Brand New, Choose Expedited shipping for GUARANTEED delivery within 4-5 business days. Standard Delivery within 6-14 business days. We may not ship to PO Box, APO , FPO Address, please contact us. Customer satisfaction guaranteed. Bookseller Inventory # NO_9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 23.28
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Daniel Mendelsohn
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 3
Seller:
Bookstore99
(Wilmington, DE, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Same ISBN and details as listed. Delivery within 3-7 business days. We may ship the books from multiple location across the globe including Asia depending upon the availability of inventory. Printed in English. Choose expedited shipping for Express delivery. Tracking number provided for every order. Bookseller Inventory # RO_9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 20.29
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 2.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Daniel Mendelsohn
Published by William Collins 2016-02-04 (2016)
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 4
Seller:
Chiron Media
(Wallingford, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description William Collins 2016-02-04, 2016. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # NU-HCL-00031695

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 19.68
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
Published by William Collins (2017)
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: > 20
Rating
[?]

Book Description William Collins, 2017. Book Condition: New. From the best-selling author of 'The Lost', a deeply moving tale of a father, a son and the lessons of a lifetime told through a transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer's epic masterpiece. Num Pages: 288 pages. BIC Classification: 1QSM; 2AHA; DSBB; DSC; WTL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 240 x 159. Weight in Grams: 720. . 2017. Hardcover. . . . . . Bookseller Inventory # V9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 24.13
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From Ireland to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Mendelsohn, Daniel
Published by William Collins
ISBN 10: 0007545126 ISBN 13: 9780007545124
New Hardcover Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Kennys Bookstore
(Olney, MD, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description William Collins. Book Condition: New. From the best-selling author of 'The Lost', a deeply moving tale of a father, a son and the lessons of a lifetime told through a transformative journey in reading - and reliving - Homer's epic masterpiece. Num Pages: 288 pages. BIC Classification: 1QSM; 2AHA; DSBB; DSC; WTL. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 240 x 159. Weight in Grams: 720. . 2017. Hardcover. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Bookseller Inventory # V9780007545124

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 24.34
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book