Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: The Odyssey

Okay, this isn't so much a book review, as it is my thoughts on this specific radio adaptation. Because, does The Odyssey really need a book review here? What can I really say about this book that hasn't already been said by the 2,000+ years of history this story's been around for. I mean, this book is a classic. End of story. Does anyone really care if I rate it four stars or five? This book is going to be around for another thousand years at least, so my opinion matters little.

Also, do you need the plot summary? Really? In all your years of education, did no one really make you read this? Guys, if you haven't read this one, you should. If only just to understand all the cultural references made to this book (everywhere all the time). Make it a goal or something. Or go back to grad school, which is exactly why I recently reread this book. Or, more accurately, listened to this adaptation.

This semester I'm taking a course called, wait for it, The History of Narrative! I can't decide if I'm super excited for this class, or if I'm kind of terrified, because if you saw the reading list, it is comprehensive. Everything from Virgil to Dante to Spenser to contemporary stuff. And while Homer isn't on the list specifically, the professor hinted in his course description that The Odyssey would be referenced frequently and it might be nice to brush up on it before class. The last time I read The Odyssey was in about sixth grade, so I figured a refresher might be a good idea. I suppose I could have found an audio book of this word for word somewhere, but I saw my library had this dramatized radio adaptation created by Yuri Rasovsky available, and it piqued my interest.

This adaptation was actually a series of radio broadcasts produced in the 1980s for The National Radio Theater. And guys? I know people talk about how radio is a dying medium, but considering how many stations out there are still alive and thriving, I kind of thought radio had it's niche and was doing just fine. I had no idea stuff like this used to be on the radio. I mean, this was like a serialized theater production with a full cast of actors and music composed specifically for this production. I did not know they used to make such quality entertainment programs for the radio. It was kind of cool to think about the stodgy old professor types who tuned in every week with their audiobills (all you had to was call this number and get a free audiobill in the mail, how awesome is that?) to listen to this dramatized version of The Odyssey. Kind of like how I tune in every week to get my Downton Abbey fix (except, Downton Abbey is a soap opera dressed up in period costume, not a splendid epic poem that will be loved for centuries).

So, the story was broken up into episodes, but what I thought was really fun was how at the end of every episode they had a bit of a journalistic piece where they interviewed experts about some aspect of The Odyssey. So I learned all sorts of interesting things about Oral Culture, about the guest-host relationship in ancient Greece, about political structures in ancient Greece, etc. I suppose some people might find these scholarly bits to be a distraction from the story, and boring or annoying. But I'm a pretentious snob, or whatever. I found it fascinating.

My one complaint about listening to this adaptation was that I felt it should have been edited a bit more for audio book format. This thing was, quite literally, the exact broadcast that aired in 1980, including commercials for Radio Theater and other sponsors, and recaps at the beginning of each episode. All of that was entirely unnecessary for the audio book format, and should have been edited out by someone (Blackstone, I'm looking at you). But other than that. I thoroughly enjoyed this dramatic adaptation of The Odyssey. I thought it was a great way to refresh myself on the story, learn a few interesting facts, and discover the glory that once was Radio Theater. Fun stuff.

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