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First Time Listening:
The Odyssey

[1]5,071 words

“And there was the Odyssey, whose vigorously sonorous, measured numbers gave an intimation of a vanished, clearly articulated and joyous life.” – Hermann Hesse[1] [2]

“An easily forgotten fact of cultural history [is] the radical, white-to-black, up-and-then-down variations in the periodic estimates of men and works. . . . To the Renaissance, Cicero was the supreme man of letters; today he has been banished even from the classroom.“ — Jacques Barzun[2] [3]

One reason, perhaps, that the effects of COVID on the social fabric have been less than they might have been is that, just as with home schooling replacing public schools, the cancelling or curtailing of places of public, corporate entertainment has moved people to developing or rediscovering ways to make their own fun; which, from a Dissident Right perspective, is a good thing.

What I’d like to do here is record a recent experience with such homemade fun. If readers find it of interest, perhaps it may become a continuing series; even better, they might try it for themselves.

One remaining — though now masked — longtime source of public fun here in Stars Hollow is the local thrift store. Given its community base of retired hippies, the goods provided are several steps up from the usual odorous inner-city trash; more like a combination of a college town and the Hamptons.[3] [4]

On a recent visit, I spotted the bright yellow-and-red box of Penguin’s audio-disc version of Homer’s Odyssey, read by Ian McKellen.[4] [5] I’ve never actually read the Odyssey as such, and this seemed like an easy — and cheap: $4! — way to repair that cultural lacuna.

Now I faced a puzzle: a book I could simply open and start on, but how would I make use of this 11-disc, 13-hour brick? Even before the lockdowns, even before streaming became a thing, people would buy box sets of their favorite TV shows and “binge watch” entire seasons [6]. But that was never my thing — including “deep dive” podcasts; just give me a printout, please — nor was my “lifestyle” such as to include visits to the gym or commuting to work or other opportunities to listen in.[5] [7] But I couldn’t imagine devoting 13 hours to one continuous listening.

Then inspiration struck.

[8]

You can buy James O’Meara’s The Homo and the Negro here [9].

As far as I know, the ancient Greeks didn’t “binge listen” to bards, either. Instead, professional bards would provide recitations during or after evening banquets.

So I would, like my imaginary Greek forbears, sit down after dinner and enjoy a book of the Odyssey, and proceed apace.

Immediately, there was a problem.

The Odyssey is of course a long book, divided, in the ancient fashion, into 24 “books” — i.e., somewhat arbitrary amounts of text that would fit on a scroll.[6] [10] Obviously, each book would be several tracks on the CD, and in no case simply taking up an entire disc; just as with a recording of Wagner’s Ring,[7] [11] or most any opera, or even most post-Beethoven symphonies.

But what one would not expect is this sort of arrangement:

Disc 1
Track 1-Track 7, Book 1 (lines 1-506)
Track 7 (begins 1:18)-Track 12, Book 2 (lines 1-477)
Track 12 (begins 1:26)-Track 15, Book 3 (lines 1-313)

Disc 2
Track 1-Track 3, Book 3 (lines 314-557)
Etc.

Imagine, then, a recording of Das Rheingold where not just discernable parts of the “infinite melody” did not correspond to the tracks, spanning two or more of them, and were not contained wholly within one, surrounded by earlier and later music; but even entire acts would spill over and end, say, exactly 5’ 11” into the next track, whereupon the next act begins at 5’12”, and so on.[8] [12]

Committed to the project, yet facing some additional tedious tasks — listening to a given book would require some jumping up, speeding ahead, changing discs, etc. — another inspiration hit.

I’ve been spending some (i.e., probably too much) time recently viewing various YouTubers in the “First Time Watching/Listening to X” or “Reaction & Review of Y” genre, in which people — usually either millennials or black — watch/listen to some pop-culture artefact and react live.[9] [13]

So, I present here some of the reactions I jotted down during disc breaks.[10] [14] Like these YouTubers, I approach the work of the Greek bard with a mixture of general Kultural Knowledge (“This is the one where he says, ‘I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse!’”) and cluelessness (“No, wait, he’s his father? My mind is blown!”).

After a couple of evenings, this plan was modified; I tended to nod off, like Jef Costello watching an episode of Columbo, [15] so I switched to the cocktail hour, settling back with a “Vesper” martini[11] [16] for some pre-prandial entertainment.

One caveat, “right off the bat,” as you Americans say: I’m sure that listening to or reading the Odyssey in the original Greek is an enjoyable, indeed transcendental experience.[12] [17] I do have a rather shaky grasp of the later, koine dialect of the New Testament — a later, simplified pidgin-Greek suitable for the needs of fishermen dealing with tax collectors[13] [18] — which has allowed me to pretend to knowing the classics,[14] [19] but Homeric is a whole other net of fish.[15] [20] The Fagles translation is highly recommended, so let’s see what happens.

Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine . . .

First, the repetitions; oh, the repetitions. Now I certainly have enough Kultural Knowledge to know about “Homeric epithets” and their role in oral traditions; and if I didn’t, Bernard Knox was good enough to bring me up to speed in his Introduction.

However, my impression had been that while there were formulaic expressions, stored in the bard’s vast Word Horde and ready to use to fill in a line, I thought there must have been a lot for each role: Ulysses, Athena, the sea, etc. Actually, not so much.

“Rosy-fingered Dawn” is the one I already knew, from allusions, usually sarcastic, in discussions of poetry. Now I learned why, and others have noticed as well [21]:

Dawn appears some twenty times in The Odyssey [in 24 books, remember], and the poem repeats the same line, word for word, each time: emos d’erigeneia phane rhododaktulos eos: “But when early-born rosy-fingered Dawn appeared . . .” There is a vast array of such formulaic expressions in Homeric verse [though each apparently has only one use], which suggest that things have an eternal, infinitely repeatable presence. Different things will happen every day, but Dawn always appears, always with rosy fingers, always early.

All this is consistent with, or required by, or requires, something Jacques Barzun observed: from the Greeks through the Mediaeval period, we only meet unchanging, unified types — the King, the Warrior, the melancholic, Everyman — rather than characters who change over time, or are conflicted or at war with themselves: an innovation of Shakespeare, for which we should be grateful.[16] [22]

Still, these people desperately needed a thesaurus[17] [23] — or, more positively, perhaps Homer invented the “callback [24]”?

Have the lambs stopped screaming, Clarice?

[25]

You can buy James O’Meara’s book Green Nazis in Space! here. [26]

 

As Odysseus and his merry band of mighty seamen sail about the Aegean at the mercy of gods, winds, and waves — it’s never clear how many ships there are, or how many men; the numbers seem to expand and contract as needed, and by the end only Odysseus himself survives; it’s like Star Trek with a whole crew of Red Shirts [27], and Odysseus is a Great Helmsman only in the Maoist [28] sense — another great repetition is noticed: the crew makes landfall, kills a bunch of sheep or lambs or bullocks of something, and then wolfs down great sides of heavy, hot meat, like the beachfront BBQ in Apocalypse Now [29]; many, many times. I guess the ancient audiences couldn’t get enough of this sort of thing.

Kilgore: I want my meat rare, rare but not cold.

Willard (v.o.): He wasn’t a bad officer, I guess. He loved his boys, and they felt safe with him. He was one of those guys that had that weird light around him. You just knew he wasn’t gonna get so much as a scratch here.

This seems to happen dozens of times; the occasional visit to a local great house is much the same, except the grub is supplied by the host, and sometimes there’s sausages — inevitably “full of fat and blood” — and on one occasion there’s some loaves of bread, almost as an afterthought or to fill out a metrical line.

Would it kill you to scrounge up some vegetables? Ever hear of scurvy? My local market sells prefab shish kebabs, ensticked and ready to grill, and they come with or without vegetables, the latter of which I naïvely assumed allowed you to add your own, but I guess they’re really for those who want to Eat Like a Greek Pirate™.[18] [30]

Hamish: Can we not think of a nicer way of putting this? How about: “We grazed on canapes and feasted on roasted suckling pig and juicy cartofi [31] beneath a bewildering array of stars, beside a pool brimming with azure blue . . .” You can’t put: “We all sat around and ate free foreign crap then vomited.”

Carmen: I’m a journalist.

Hamish: Fair enough.[19] [32]

Ahoy, matey

Speaking of which: it was while yet another beach blanket buffet was being narrated that it dawned on me (rosy fingers and all) that our heroes are really just right bastards.[20] [33] Let’s let “ever-wily” Ulysses tell his tale:

Come, let me tell you about the voyage fraught with hardship Zeus inflicted on me, homeward bound from Troy . . . The wind drove me out of Ilium on to Ismarus, the Cicones [34]’ stronghold. There I sacked the city, killed the men, but as for the wives and plunder, that rich haul we dragged away from the place — we shared it round so no one, not on my account, would go deprived of his fair share of spoils.

Did you notice that bit about the wives and making sure everyone got a piece?[21] [35] Back to our story.

Then I urged them to cut and run, set sail, but would they listen? Not those mutinous fools; there was too much wine to swill, too many sheep to slaughter down along the beach, and shambling longhorn cattle. And all the while the Cicones sought out other Cicones, called for help from their neighbors living inland: a larger force, and stronger soldiers too, skilled hands at fighting men from chariots, skilled, when a crisis broke, to fight on foot. Out of the morning mist they came against us — packed as the leaves and spears that flower forth in spring — and Zeus presented us with disaster, me and my comrades doomed to suffer blow on mortal blow. Lining up, both armies battled it out against our swift ships, both raked each other with hurtling bronze lances. Long as morning rose and the blessed day grew stronger we stood and fought them off, massed as they were, but then, when the sun wheeled past the hour for unyoking oxen, the Cicones broke our lines and beat us down at last. Out of each ship, six men-at-arms were killed; the rest of us rowed away from certain doom. (IX)

Here’s how some Classics johnny describes the account [36] (emphasis mine):

The Cicones in the Odyssey mark one of the times the crew’s disobedience nearly cost them everything. [So that’s the moral lesson: obey the mob boss] As Odysseus and his crew traveled, they needed to gain supplies and respite from life at sea. Being warriors, they saw no harm in stopping on a small island and sacking it.

They slaughter the men and take the women as slaves, dividing the spoils among the crew. Odysseus sees nothing wrong in this behavior and relates it to the king as a perfectly normal and acceptable action of a captain leading a crew. Notably, he makes mention of the division of the spoils as an example of how fairly he tries to treat his crew so that “no man should have reason to complain.”

Unfortunately for Odysseus, his crew is excited by their easy victory and want to enjoy what they’ve gained from the raid. They refuse to sail on as he orders but rather lounge on the beach, butchering some of the animals and feasting on meat and wine. They celebrate late into the night, getting drunk and filling their bellies with the spoils of their victory. Their celebration was short-lived, however. The Cicones who escaped the raid rushed further inland to seek help.

These people who were the Cicones in the Odyssey were not to be trifled with. They had come to the Trojans’ aid during the war and were known to be fierce and capable warriors. They soon routed Odysseus’ men, taking back the slaves and killing six crew members from each of the ships before they could escape.

Odysseus and his crew were forced to sail away empty-handed and suffering a sound defeat.

So Odysseus and his crew picked the wrong gang to fuck with, and paid the price. How dare the Cicones fight back! One is reminded of how stunned Anglo-Americans are when one of the natives punches back, or how the Israelis regard stone-throwing children as an existential threat. Why us? What did we ever do to them? One expects Odysseus to whine, “Annudah Shoah!”

Moreover, the words “crew” and “captain” and the absolute obedience of the crew seem familiar in a similar modern context: the Mafia [37].

El Capitan, Capo, Caporegime, or Captain, the Caporegime is a captain of a large crew of soldiers, hitmen and associates. The captain heads a large crew of anywhere from 15 to 3,000 soldiers, hitmen and associates and can order them to do absolutely anything. The captains report directly to the boss or underboss who hands down the orders, directions and instructions. He is very powerful and has the power to order his crew to do anything and everything he desires. The Captains only has to answer to the boss, consigliere, or underboss, the captain has total power and control over his crew of soldiers and associates, who does absolutely anything the Captain commands. (emphasis mine)

Tony Soprano might better have claimed his crew to be the modern Greeks rather than Romans.[22] [38]

For all the lionizing of the manly men of our Greek heritage on the Dissident Right,[23] [39] one wonders how many would be pleased to see this bunch washed up on the beach in front of one’s summer home, a sort of homeless band and antifa combo.

[40]

You can buy Buttercup Dew’s My Nationalist Pony here [41]

Similarly, on the flip side, Odysseus and his crew welcomed and feasted — xenophilia or theoxeny, the duty to welcome strangers — finds expression on the Dominant Left in the “Invite the World” mentality; except, of course, the homeless aren’t camped out in Rob Reiner’s Malibu, and the “Neolithic barbarians” of Afghanistan are shipped to Bangor, Maine and not Martha’s Vineyard.[24] [42]

A more important discovery was how much better the second half is than the first. This surprised me. I was particularly concerned about the second half, being after all the second half; 12 books dealing, I recalled, with Odysseus arriving home and killing all the suitors. I was prepared for a lot of wheel-spinning and epithets to pad this out to 12 scrolls.

As I said above, I would have preferred to start with the Iliad, first out of autism — start at the beginning, damn it! — but also because my vague impression was it was an archaic, heroic war epic, and the Odyssey, being about some poor guy jerked around to Hell and back (literally) for years and finally returning to his wife and home, seemed a step down in the direction that would become “the novel” and its comfy globohomo world of anti-heroes.[25] [43]

When Odysseus does finally get around to taking care of the suitors, it does indeed take several books, but it works. My vague Kultural Memory, derived perhaps from some sword-and-sandals movie version, or some phony academic discussion of the structure of Joyce’s Ulysses, would have had Odysseus popping up in the back of the hall and implausibly dispatching them all with some arrows, perhaps aided by magic or a god — “Say hello to my little friend! [44]” –, but Homer is smarter and more talented than that. The whole thing is far more intricately plotted, with several fake-outs and traps laid (including our Hero as Verbal Kint [45] for several scrolls), and when it’s clobbering time, Odysseus has by his side some servants who have remained faithful, as well as his son, Telemachus, who joins his father for the first time in battle. It’s the kind of rousing, crowd-pleasing denouement we’ve seen in innumerable Westerns, gangster flicks, and superhero epics,[26] [46] but I’m okay with that, especially seeing how well it was done the first time.

Of course, it helps to have a god on your side, or a goddess: Athena, shapeshifting as Mentor. I should mention this little moment:

Agelaus spurred his comrades on with battle-plans: “Friends, at last the man’s invincible hands are useless! Mentor has mouthed some empty boasts and flitted off — just four are left to fight at the front doors. So now, no wasting your long spears — all at a single hurl, just six of us launch out in the first wave! If Zeus is willing, we may hit Odysseus, carry off the glory! The rest are nothing once the captain’s down!” At his command, concentrating their shots, all six hurled as one but Athena sent the whole salvo wide of the mark — one of them hit the jamb of the great hall’s doors, another the massive door itself, and the heavy bronze point of a third ashen javelin crashed against the wall. Seeing his men untouched by the suitors’ flurry, steady Odysseus leapt to take command: “Friends! now it’s for us to hurl at them, I say, into this ruck of suitors! Topping all their crimes they’re mad to strip the armor off our bodies!” (XXII)

Which put me in mind of this more recent one [47]:

Jules: This was Divine Intervention! You know what “divine intervention” is?

Vincent: Yeah, I think so. That means God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Jules: Yeah, man, that’s what it means. That’s exactly what it means! God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Vincent: I think we should be going now.

Jules: Don’t do that! Don’t you fucking do that! Don’t blow this shit off! What just happened was a fucking miracle!

Vincent: Chill the fuck out, Jules, this shit happens.

Jules: Wrong! Wrong, this shit doesn’t just happen.

Vincent: Do you wanna continue this theological discussion in the car, or at the jailhouse with the cops?

Jules: We should be fuckin’ dead now, my friend! We just witnessed a miracle, and I want you to fucking acknowledge it!

Vincent: Okay man, it was a miracle, can we leave now?[27] [48]

And there’s the death of the chief suitor:

But Odysseus aimed and shot Antinous square in the throat and the point went stabbing clean through the soft neck and out — and off to the side he pitched, the cup dropped from his grasp as the shaft sank home, and the man’s life-blood came spurting out his nostrils — thick red jets — a sudden thrust of his foot — he kicked away the table — food showered across the floor, the bread and meats soaked in a swirl of bloody filth. (XXII)

This is good stuff, composed by someone who’s seen, if not caused, some actual deaths. Did Coppola include a little homage to it at the end of this scene [49] in The Godfather?[28] [50] Maybe it’s just me, but perhaps the Odyssey is less “the first novel” but the OG gangster film?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you today.[29] [51] That second Vesper was a bad idea, and my notes are not helping at this point. If you enjoyed this exercise, feel free to suggest other works that could stand the reaction treatment, or — even better — try it yourself!

*  *  *

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Notes

[1] [52] Hermann Hesse, Beneath the Wheel, translated by Michael Roloff (New York: Bantam Books, 1970).

[2] [53] From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (New York: Harper Perennial, 2000), pp. 142-43. It has its own Wikipedia page, here [54].

[3] [55] I still wear an Italian silk blazer I picked up 20 years ago at a Hamptons thrift store for $5.

[4] [56] The Odyssey, tr. by Robert Fagles, read by Ian McKellen. 11 CDs, 13 hours. Penguin Audio, 1996/2005. -14-305824-x. $39.95. “Listen [57] to exclusive audio clips of Homeric translator, Robert Fagles, reading The Odyssey in Greek and Sir Ian McKellan reading the English translation.”

[5] [58] Admittedly, I’m simply too cheap to buy a box set of what is just a TV show. However, I did catch most of the AMC postmortem Breaking Bad marathon, having decided before that I could only invest so much time in a TV series, and that that series would be Mad Men. See the results in “Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad [59], “ reprinted in my recent collection Passing the Buck: Coleman Francis and Other Cinematic Metaphysicians (Melbourne: Manticore Press, 2021).

[6] [60] One reason for the spread and ultimate conquest of Christianity is that the new faith made use of the latest technology, the bound “codex [61].”

[7] [62] For suggested recordings, see the “Appendix” in Collin Cleary, Wagner’s Ring & the Germanic Tradition (Wagnerphile Books, 2021), reviewed here. [63]

[8] [64] Perhaps the problem is clearer [65] the other way round: “The recording is from the pre-digital download era and the audio chapters are based on approximate 30 minute timings (1 side of a cassette tape?), regardless of the actual Homeric verses. So the 24 Chapter starts are only occasionally equal to the beginnings of the 24 Verses [sic] of the Odyssey. This may or may not be a distraction for some. It is probably not a major issue if you are following along with a print edition.”

[9] [66] These works are selected by the paying subscribers of their Patreon accounts. I, being cheap and concerned with wasting time, view the later, edited, free versions. Is a pattern emerging here?

[10] [67] I actually pioneered the live-format version when I wrote my review of Jonathan Lethem’s book They Live! (New York: Soft Skull, 2010) while viewing the film itself here [68], and reprinted in my collection The Homo & the Negro: Masculinist Meditations on Politics & Popular Culture; second, embiggened edition; edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2017), available here [9]. For even more, listen to my discussion of the film with Fróði Midjord here [69].

[11] [70] “Bond laughed. ‘When I’m . . . er . . . concentrating,’ he explained, ‘I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.’” — Ian Fleming, Casino Royale, Chapter 7, “Rouge et Noir.” The recipe is explained here [71]. Bond’s dislike of small portions of something bad is unlike the typical non-Aryan. [72]

[12] [73] Or perhaps not; here is Hermann Hesse’s account of a schoolboy’s experience, based on his own: “‘We’re reading Homer,” he went on in the same mocking tone, “as though the Odyssey were a cookbook. Two verses an hour and then the whole thing is masticated word by word and inspected until you’re ready to throw up. But at the end of the hour the professor will say: ‘Notice how nicely the poet has turned this phrase! This has afforded you an insight into the secret of poetic creativity!’ Just like a little icing around the aorists and particles so you won’t choke on them completely. I don’t have any use for that kind of Homer. Anyway, what does all this old Greek stuff matter to us? If one of us ever tried to live a little like a Greek, he’d be out on his tail. And our room is called ‘Hellas’! Pure mockery! Why isn’t it called ‘wastepaper basket’ or ‘monkey cage’ or ‘sweatshop’? All this classical stuff is a big fake.’” (Beneath the Wheel, op. cit.)

[13] [74] Generations of missionaries and candidates for holy orders were piously told that it was a special dialect devised by the Holy Spirit for the communication of spiritual truths, but the postwar discovery of a cache of koine documents revealed the truth: it was a kinda Greek Ebonics.

[14] [75] Alan Watts had the inverse experience; his English public schoolboy’s knowledge of Greek enabled him to ace his seminary class in the Greek New Testament and translate Dionysius’ Divine Names for a master’s degree in theology, without ever attending college; see In My Own Way: An Autobiography (New York: Pantheon, 1972).

[15] [76] If Hesse’s account is accurate, German schoolboys were taught Classical Greek (Plato, for example) and only later introduced to dialects like koine or Homeric, which seems to me to be a system admirably designed to produce a loathing of Greek in any form with Teutonic efficiency.

[16] [77] Barzun, op. cit., pp. 135-41. As Ayn Rand might say, “A type has integrity, like a man.” Since, as Barzun also notes, Aristotle based his Poetics on Greek drama, it’s no surprise that Rand, who took her aesthetics from the same source, produced works, and an aesthetic theory, that emphasized plot rather than believable characters. It would be possible, and perhaps amusing, to rewrite The Fountainhead with Homeric (Randian?) epithets: “And the indomitable genius, Roark, turned and leveled his grey-eyed gaze at Toohey, the hypocritical critic, saying, ‘I don’t think of you at all.’”

[17] [78] Hamish: Where have you been?

Carmen: Spain.

Hamish: Ah, off the beaten track . . . Andalusia, forgotten Catalonia. My own secret Majorca.

Carmen: More like my own secret arsehole. It was a shitty bit of coastline ruined by patronizing English gits. “Oh, you must come over and share a rather fine local Rioja.” Oh, piss off, you sad twats!

Hamish: Oh, dear. Mr. Dictionary seems to have deserted us again. — Absolutely Fabulous, “New Best Friend.”

[18] [79] The shades of the dead are no better: “Sit down to your food, old friend. Snap out of your wonder. We’ve been cooling our heels here long enough, eager to get our hands on all this pork, hoping you’d all troop in at any moment.” (XXIV)

[19] [80] Absolutely Fabulous, loc. cit.

[20] [81] “’What the hell, hero?’ — When characters In-Universe call out one of the heroes for doing something clearly unheroic, if not outright heinous.” – TVTropes [82].

[21] [83] Blackadder: Dress it up in any amount of pompous verbal diarrhea, and the message is “Squareheads down for the big Boche gang-bang.” Blackadder,Private Plane [84],” S4E4.

[22] [85] Ariel: You ever heard of the Masada? For two years, 900 Jews held their own against 15,000 Roman soldiers. They chose death before enslavement. The Romans? Where are they now?

Tony Soprano: You’re looking at them, asshole. The Sopranos, “Denial, Anger, Acceptance,” S1E3. In my review of DePalma’s The Untouchables, I discuss Capone, and Captain Ahab, as examples of the “bad Männerbund” which actually exists for the benefit of the leader alone; see “‘God, I’m with a heathen’: The Rebirth of the Männerbund in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables [86],” reprinted in The Homo & The Negro, op. cit.

[23] [87] De Benoist, for example, says that “[]not only are the ancient religions of Europe equal to monotheism in their spiritual richness and theological complexity, but it can even be claimed that they often prevail in this domain. . . . I draw more lessons from the teaching of the symbolic opposition of Janus and Vesta, the morality of the Oresteia, or the story of Ymir’s dismemberment than the adventures of Joseph and his brothers or the aborted murder of Isaac.” Alain de Benoist, On Being a Pagan, ed. Greg Johnson, trans. Jon Graham (Atlanta: Ultra, 2004); Chapter Three, “The Sacred.” Admittedly, he doesn’t mention Homer, but it would be an odd sort of paganism that didn’t include him. Indeed, it would also be interesting to compare “wily Ulysses, man of many plans” to the tricksters held up for our admiration in Genesis.

[24] [88] The ZMan explains it [89]: “Theoxeny is a theme in Greek mythology in which mortals demonstrate their virtue by extending hospitality to a complete stranger, usually one who is humble like a beggar or a poor traveler. The stranger turns out to be a deity in disguise. The man who is a generous host, thus displaying his piety, is rewarded, while the man who refuses to extend hospitality is punished for his lack of piety.

“For the ancient Greeks, hospitality toward foreigners and guests was a very important moral obligation. Zeus is sometimes called Zeus Xenios because of his role as a protector of strangers. The name Xenios is derived from xenos, the Greek word for ‘stranger.’ To have Zeus, the ruler of the gods, embody the moral obligations around the treatment of strangers speaks to the importance of the practice to the Greeks.

“In the new religion of the American ruling elite, there is a similar sort of ritualized hospitality toward strangers. It is primarily expressed in the form of open borders, the admittance of anyone who has a reason to settle in America. The reason does not need to make any sense. It just has to provide the ruling class with the opportunity to tell one another how much they care about these strangers.

“In the past week, all corners of the ruling class have demanded that America import as many Afghans as possible. Granted, none of the people demanding the importation of these Neolithic barbarians plans to house them in his home. It is not about actually helping the people they claim to love. You see, the demand to import Afghans into your neighborhood is part of a ritual demonstrating their virtue.

“In prior ages, the ruling class might sacrifice a bull and underwrite a great festival as a way to display their piety. In the Middle Ages, the great men would build cathedrals to show their devotion to the Cross. Today, the great and the good import people from around the globe into your neighborhood. This is not about you, as they don’t care about you. It is about piety within the managerial class itself.”

[25] [90] There’s a matching Penguin audio set, narrated by Frodo himself, Ian Holm, but I’ll wait till it magically appears at the thrift store.

[26] [91] For some reason, it reminds me of how Bogart’s Philip Marlowe dispatches the bad guys with a vengeance at the climax of The Big Sleep.

[27] [92] We might also consider Vincent’s little bathroom speech about the importance of loyalty (see Trevor Lynch’s review here) [93] as presenting the Good Suitor by contrast with the Bad Suitors lounging around Penelope.

[28] [94] And finally some bread to choke down all that meat! “Try the veal, it’s the best in the city.”
Michael’s later settling of “all the family’s business” has nothing like the same impact, because by then he is just giving out orders, not, like Ulysses, “taki[ng] arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end[ing] them.”

[29] [95] A tip of the hat to YT’s The Critical Drinker [96].