The Words We Read

Like I said, there is more to being the Carruths besides just eating. We also read. So, to further share the wealth of our lives with others, I submit for your viewing pleasure, a new segment. The Words We Read will chronicle the books we are currently reading, the thoughts we have about them and our critiques.

Between us both, there are many varieties of material: Feminist works, Immigrant stories, Shakespeare, Detective Novels, Epics, Poetry, Theology, Art and so on. So if you’re interested not only in the cuisine de Carruth ( or not interested at all) but the spirited glows of Western Literature, this segment is for you.

Because Ryan is still in school, most of what he is reading is boring. However, some is not. Fulfilling a 2 year-long dream, Ryan is taking a Classics class at LSU. As of 1:56 p.m. February 10, Ryan has finished The Illiad and I am assuming as of 2:02 p.m. February 10 Ryan has begun The Odyssey. He is excited to finally read and learn these monumental and foundational texts of western

*stops abrubtly*

*Enter: Ryan*

Kelli’s almost right about starting The Odyssey immediately after finishing The Iliad, if we squeeze between them a jaunt to the library, an article about Shakespeare’s lack of formal classical learning, and a tall mocha from CC’s. But, having finished the 16,000 lines of The Iliad, I can finally attest in small way for its excellence. It’s everything a reader could want: high drama, stunning similes, towering heroes, cunning exploits, lustful lovers, meddling gods, and a ton of action in all its blood and sweat and gore. It’s portrayal of the complications of heroism and the contradictions of the Greek system of reciprocity between nobles — a quid pro quo system, as it were, similar to the feudal lords of the Middle Ages —  is worth considering (a theme that remains relevant today, cf. “Achilles in Vietnam,” by Jonathon Shaw, or “The Godfather”). Being founded upon an irony which sets the entire plot in motion around the “divine anger” of Achilles, Homer drives the story to its blood, yet touching end with great force and “swagger.”

It is, admittedly, not for the faint of heart, as the gore is excessive at times, the long battles difficult to follow, and the Greek names often challenging to remember (Not only the name itself is given, but often a “Son of ____” is used as well). Nevertheless, besides being perhaps the most enduring epic in the classical tradition, it is a veritable treasure trove of Greek myth and culture (for good and bad). Moreover, Homer’s epics themselves serve as the rhetorical and poetic standard all throughout the classical, medieval, renaissance, and neo-classical periods, being the hero of great rhetoricians and poetics such as Horace, Longinus, and Alexander Pope:

“But when t’examine every part [Maro] came,
Nature and Homer were, he found, the same…
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem:
to copy nature is to copy them.”
— Essay on Criticism, ll.133-5, 139-140

The reason the Iliad is still around after 3000 years is because, not only has it served as the background for all Greek and Roman poetry, but because it is an exciting, mesmerizing story full of “godlike” heroes filled to the brim with anger, pride, love, lust, heroism, joy, and sorrow. What’s not to love about that?

[I may give more specific thoughts on the subject in the next few days, but this is my personal “book report” which you may take or leave]

*Kelli takes back the keyboard*

Back to me. I have 50 pages left of the The Second Confession A Nero Wolfe Mystery by Rex Stout. This is his last book of the 1940’s. When I finish this novel, I will have read every Nero Wolfe story (novel, novella and short story) published from 1937-1949. The novels published between 1944-1947, were rather dull, if I can say that without sounding too un-patriotic. Rex Stout was a very social and politically involved member of society and his novels reflect this even if his characters do not. During the “war years” the stories he wrote were saturated with politics-Archie became a Major in the United States Military, Wolfe volunteered his services to the CIA, members of obscure government departments carried on subtle rivalries between themselves. Maybe a contempary audience would appreciate the murder of the Director of the Bureau of Price Regulation at a well-to-dinner for the National Industrial Association, but it was lost on me. By the time 1948 rolled around, the world, America and Rex Stout were in higher spirits. Now Nero Wolfe is cautious not to step on the toes of the mysterious X, a national crime lord whom no one can identify, as he tries to track down the murderer of a known Communist. Oh, I have high hopes for the 1950’s novels!

After I finish these 50 Wolfe pages, I am going to pick up Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier for a second read. There are only two books I’ve ever read more than once, but I can’t remember what they are. So to re-read Rebecca will be a real treat. Last night whilst on a brisk walk, I got a hankering for some DuMaurier, and resolved to read my favorite novel by her again. I further resolved not to start it until I had finished Nero Wolfe.

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