It’s kind of nice when some of your wackier ideas end up being validated, even if it is years later.
My novel, In the Black, is basically the story of a character’s “coming of age” journey through one of the crazier decades in recent history, the Sixties. On another level, it is an exploration of the unique relationships between fathers and sons. I used Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey as haphazard thematic motifs throughout the story. It just seemed to fit somehow.
Imagine my surprise when I listened to a recent Art of Manliness podcast: What Homer’s Odyssey Can Teach Us Today, which was an interview with Daniel Mendelsohn, the author of The Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic. The classics professor explained that Homer’s story is essentially about the relationships Ulysses has with his son, Telemachus, and his father, Laertes. Mendelsohn’s memoir is about his eighty-one-year-old father enrolling in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar he taught at Bard College and how that class became a learning experience for both of them — about each other.
I enjoyed a special relationship with my dad that my brothers and sisters didn’t. We worked together in the family business and not only did he mentor me professionally, as a peer I met his friends and colleagues. I got to know my father as the person he was outside his paternal role in the family unit, as Mendelsohn did through his seminar. My dad was a great guy and such was my inspiration for In the Black.
There were some additional ironic coincidences and connections with our books (like, Jay Mendelsohn worked as an Engineer at Grumman on the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module and may well have actually been in one of the scenes of In the Black, which describes a meeting at the Bethpage facility–I’m just not sure). But the bottom line is I’m glad to be stumbling along on the right path with my tiny writer feet in the footsteps of a literary giant.
Make sure to check out both the Art of Manliness interview and Mendelsohn’s book: