An Odyssey follows Mendelsohn’s father Jay, who in his eighties decides to complete the classical education he abandoned as a teenagerby Sameer Rahim / October 11, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
It is a truism that literary criticism doesn’t sell without a healthy dose of memoir to entice the reader. Hence the proliferation of formulaic books with titles like, “How Proust Solved my Depression,” or “Shakespeare Helped me get Over my Breakdown.” But in the hands of Daniel Mendelsohn, a talented critic and sensitive memoirist, the genre gets a shot in the arm.
An Odyssey follows Mendelsohn’s father Jay, who in his eighties decides to complete the classical education he abandoned as a teenager by attending the class his son taught on the Odyssey at Bard College. At first his fellow students don’t know what to make of crotchety Jay, whose scientific mind isn’t comfortable with there being no one right answer to the questions they tackle, and who can’t see why Odysseus should be regarded as a hero—the gods do it all for him! Daniel is exasperated and sometimes embarrassed; but he knows that this class is an opportunity to get to know an emotionally distant man too old fashioned to say he loves him.