My Bookman and I finished listening to The Iliad last night. It was really good. Better than I expected.

While my reading memory is pretty good, my listening memory is not. The page mediates the reading experience. I can stop and think, re-read, turn back a few pages to look for a passage that the one I just read refers to or reminds me of. I am in control. Listening is another matter, especially listening with another person. Sometimes we’d hit pause to say “wow!” over a particularly gruesome scene or turn of phrase or if one of us had gotten lost and didn’t remember who was speaking to whom. But there is no going back to search for passages.

The audio experience is more visceral, I have no control. But I like that hearing the poem read, I can hear and feel the rhythms of it, get pulled in by the repetition of speeches and phrases instead of annoyed like I do when reading them. And then there is the intonation of the reader not to mention the correct pronunciation of all those names that I would never figure out from only reading it.

The audio version we listened to is the Fitzgerald translation, the book I am reading is the Fagles translation. The Fitzgerald is really good, uses a few less modern words and phrasings than the Fagles, but overall it was quite satisfactory to listen to.

I have gotten away from what I wanted to say when I said my listening memory isn’t very good. Because it isn’t good, all I have from the listening is impressions, which is not a bad thing. I definitely will not be forgetting all the gore anytime soon, soldiers holding their entrails and spears passing through skulls, and exiting through mouths, and eyeballs popping out. I could never watch this kind of horror in a movie but I can hear it and read it.

I’ve never read The Iliad before so the thing that surprised me most was how much of the story of the Trojan War is not in the poem. The story of Paris running away with Helen is not in the poem. Achilles’ death, the Trojan Horse, and the fall of Troy is also not in the poem. The poem concludes right after Hector’s funeral. In some ways I felt cheated. But I was also amazed because all of the stories about the war sprang up after Homer wrote the poem. It’s like ancient fan fiction or something.

The plan is that I will finish the Fagles’ Iliad this weekend, we’ll take a little break, and then dive in to the audio of The Odyssey which I also plan on reading. I expect it will be different, but just as much fun.