The Readers of Homer: an interview with Kathyrn Holhwein & Yannis Simonides
Of the cunning hero,
The wanderer, blown off course time and again
After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights.
Of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,
The suffering deep in his heart at sea
As he struggled to survive and bring his men home
But could not save them, hard as he tried—
The fools—destroyed by their own recklessness
When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun,
And that god snuffed out their day of return.
Of these things,
Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.
The Odyssey By Homer Translated by STANLEY LOMBARDO
Sometimes I shock myself. As I did just the other day when I found myself suggesting to a friend that the video they contemplated making be four minutes or less. I explained it by saying that we live in an age of brevity. At least I had the good taste not to defend this state of affairs.
Have we really become a society with a collective attention span of five minutes or less? Well–”no”…and “yes”. We still read novels and watch movies so we still have the capacity for the “long form”. Unfortunately I find in nearly every case if a movie or novel doesn’t grab us in a remarkably short period of time–say five minutes–that we’ll wander off looking for the next thing that will. Just look at the length of the chapters in most best sellers: they are usually four pages or less and end in some sort of “breathless” situation. Movies are no different. Think of how all the James Bond movies open: each starts with a short (ten minute or so) self contained story that draws us in before the opening credits ever roll. After that THE story begins and for the next 90 minutes there’s a bit of a sex, a very bad guy (or gal) and some gunplay or fisticuffs all leading up to some massive final showdown between the forces of good (Bond and cronies) and evil (Dr. No, Auric Goldfinger, Smersh, Rosa Klebb, Hugo Drax or Ernst Blofeld–the list goes on and on). A winning formula or at least it was until recently. Today’s films need a car chase or a shoot out every five or ten minutes to insure our fannies stay in the seats.
I have to admit, though I love the long form, I’ve fallen prey to its shorter cousin. Rarely do any of my videos exceed five minutes and when it does, in most cases, it’s a compilation or a film I shot early on and didn’t know better.
I don’t abhor texting or IM-ing. I’m just no good at it so I don’t bother with them. I still write letters though e-mails have become my chosen form of communicating with friends and family. My first draft of this blog was hand written. One of my most memorable movie experiences was sitting in the theater watching all four hours and 19 minutes of Max Ophul’s “The Sorrow and the Pity”.
So that leads me to ask: What could be more “long form” then reading The Odyssey over a 12 hour period? How about reading it aloud with dozens and dozens of other people; the chance to simultaneously be both Bard and audience. Being part of a tradition the reaches back more than 2,500 years.
The Readers of Homer (TROH) hold readings of Homer’s works all over the world. I participated in one held in Manhattan back in 2004 and now you have the opportunity to participate in the latest event being held on November 27, at the 92nd Street “Y”. The Odyssey will be read from beginning to end that night starting at 7pm and running till 7am the next morning. That’s Long Form!
When I did it six years ago, much to my regret, other obligations forced me to leave before the readings were finished. It wasn’t that I wanted to hear The Odyssey read by so many different voices, though the readings I heard, some in ancient Greek, were interesting, even exciting. No, what I’m sorry I missed was the shared experience. Sharing the adventure–much like Odysseus’s. Sharing the long form. Something that cannot happen in a mere five minutes.