When I picked up my first Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities I thought it would be torture. Going from reading nothing but horror to picking up a classic was a bit daunting. Instead I read a wonderful piece of story telling from a master. When I picked up Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment I thought 'this will definitely be torture', but I read a fantastic psychological thriller which I still think about today, and which has encouraged me to try other Russian works with equal delight. Back in my twenties I read The Bible. I decided that I would read a few verses a day, following the reading guide at the back of my edition, but all the who begat who in Genesis, and all the cubits of this and that when building the ark were mind numbing I wanted to speed read and get to the good stuff. I did, however finish it, and I can honestly say that was TORTURE!
So, now I've picked up Homer's The Iliad and I'm wondering as I commence this slow read - like The Bible I shall be taking this 'verse' by 'verse' - will it be torture? Somehow I'm thinking not, even after my partner had a flick through it and threw the book at me and told me to 'give it up' before I had even started. Talk about narrow minded - or perhaps he's worried about my mood swings if I don't enjoy it! I understand that this is not the type of book that you jump into feet first, on reading the first page I could not understand a thing. So I took the sensible step of downloading the Shmoop Study Guide. I've read the back story, the character summaries and the themes and with its help I am finding a rhythm to the poem.
So why torture myself? Because Shmoop writes that "you'd be hard-pressed to find a work that comes close to the Iliad for depth of insight into human life, as well as sheer beauty" and when I read literature I love the subtle references to other classical work and the more I read the more I 'get' these references. The Iliad and The Odyssey have had a huge impact on classical and modern literature and I want to understand this and relate to it.