Odysseus and Calypso

Odysseus and Calypso
Odysseus and Calypso.
Red-figure vase. Clay.
Paris, Louvre Museum.

I’ve been writing a lengthy middle-grade sci-fi novel for almost two years now that I think of as an odyssey. It’s the tale of a modern girl whose city has been horribly changed be someone stealing her parents’ time machine. When the machine returns to her, she and her best friend must use it to go back three-hundred years and undo the damage.

I’ve read Homer’s Odyssey cover-to-cover half a dozen times at least. It’s my favorite book. It’s the grandest story of homecoming in human history. Living under the Seattle skies, I read sections of it in the gray depths of winter, just to feel the sun on my face again.

How good my novel is I can’t say. Sometimes parts of it thrill me. Most times it seems like a scattered pile of words. But, for better or worse, it is an odyssey. I felt it yesterday most strongly, as I was working on one of the last few chapters. My own hero Erin Isabelle Spotsworth and I both wanted to cry over the difficulty of this journey. She and I, as Odysseus did before us, just wanted to go home now.

Here’s a passage from Book 5 of the Odyssey, as translated by A. T. Murray.  It’s the point where Odysseus, captured by the goddess Calypso, is most terribly homesick.

But when he [the god Hermes] had marveled in his heart at all things, straightway he went into the wide cave; nor did Calypso, the beautiful goddess, fail to know him, when she saw him face to face; for not unknown are  the immortal gods to one another, even though one dwells in a home far away. But the great-hearted Odysseus he found not within; for he sat weeping on the shore, as his wont had been, racking his soul with tears and groans and griefs, and he would look over the unresting sea, shedding tears.

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