Who would willingly roam across a salty waste so vast, so endless?

So last week I told the consumption partner about the upcoming maritime theme. He is, as a rule, completely uninterested in the blog, but this got him very excited. He even started recommending books! One of his suggestions was a funny one, not really what you would think of as maritime literature at all, but sailing and the sea do play a large role in it, and it will also serve as my first and possibly greatest de-humiliation of the year: The Odyssey.

My first reaction was, what a great idea, a good way to start the year and the theme and get this big awesome de-humiliation out of the way. My second reaction was, how do I connect with this piece of literature? I have read a very little bit of Ancient Greek stuff before, way back in high school. But in general I don’t read many things so far removed, and I don’t read much in translation. It makes me nervous. I felt like I wouldn’t know what to do, since between the translation and the oral nature of the poem, the words seem so slippery, and all I’m looking at is the words.

That was pretty silly though. I felt better after reading Bernard Knox’s excellent introduction to the Robert Fagles translation I have, and just kind of jumped in. And I like it a surprising amount. (Warning from the CP: classical lit is pretty much all downhill from here.)

So, after that, a tentative list for the remainder of the theme (with thanks especially to Amateur Reader—several items on your list were things I’d considered but wasn’t sure about):

The Voyages of Captain Cook by James Cook
Narrative of the Mutiny by William Bligh
The Loss of the Ship “Essex”, Sunk by a Whale by Owen Chase
Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana
Benito Cereno by Herman Melville (specifically recommended by the CP as the best of Melville’s shorter works; Billy Budd may still squeeze in)
Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. I’ve decided to revisit this one, the only Hemingway I ever disliked.

I think that’s all. And I’ve got my trusty anthology of American sea writing as well. What’s that, you say, she’s stopped her mystery theme halfway through? Yes, well, it happens. And it may happen again.

UPDATE: How could I have left off the list In Hazard by Richard Hughes, which was practically the inspiration for this whole enterprise, anyway?

5 comments to Who would willingly roam across a salty waste so vast, so endless?

  • First – well, not very far downhill! Sappho, “The Birds”, the “Oresteia”, the Oedipus plays, “Helen” and “Orestes” and a half dozen other crazy Euripides plays. The Iliad!

    Second – I actually don’t particularly care about seafaring, but I do like good books, and there seem to be a lot of good books on the subject. I’d forgotten about Captain Cook – I’ve read the Penguin abridgement, which is fine stuff. I want to read the Slocum book someday, too.

    Good luck; have a good time.

  • Yeah, I think he must have meant after the Greeks, because he loves Sophocles, and the Iliad. He really has a problem with the Aeneid though.

    Do I care about seafaring? I don’t know that I do, but it is Romantic, and as you say there seem to be a lot of good books on the subject

  • I bought a copy of American Sea Writing myself recently, on the recommendation of a fellow Library Thinger. Haven’t read it but….

  • Wonderful theme and such a variety of choices. Life of Pi also comes to mind, if there’s room.

    After lurking a bit, I have nominated you for the Premios Dardo Award. Please visit http://hotchpotcafe.blogspot.com/ for the details, with my compliments!

  • The re-realease of the Book, Inagua, captures a great sailing adventure of two city slickers who find themselves on storm tossed seas and then shipwrecked on the Island of Great Inagua. The website has hundreds of rarely seen pictures from this adventure.