It’s October, which means The L.A. Odyssey Project will begin its journey into the neighborhoods of Los Angeles to explore the connections between literature, history, science, and the humanities to shine a distinctly Southern California light on Homer’s epic poem. From a Cyclops puppet show, to bike riding with Lotus Eaters, to a marathon public reading, here’s a sample of the many ways you can chart your own voyage into Homer’s The Odyssey across Los Angeles this October. For a full calendar of upcoming events, visit www.lfla.dev/odyssey.
Artist engagement: Los Angeles artist Peter Shire is re-imagining a modern day Greek vase with a distinctly Southern California perspective. He has been inspired by the collection at The Getty Villa and by the individual Odyssey of an iconic Los Angeleno.
Ongoing throughout October, Los Angeles Public Library Branch programs in each region: These will be envisioned by some of our greatest resources, the creative and innovative public librarians. There will be more than 90 events in total, spread over 15 branches in the Los Angeles Public Library system.
Madeline Miller and Zachary Mason, in conversation with Molly Pulda
Zachary Mason’s brilliant debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homer’s epic story of the warrior Odysseus’ long journey home with alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions. Madeline Miller’s retelling of The Iliad – The Song of Achilles – offers a fresh take of the Trojan War that was both an homage to Homer and a startlingly original work of art. Together at ALOUD for the first time, these two brilliant young novelists discuss the art of rewriting a classic.
October 4: Commit a Poem to Memory Day. In ancient Greece, oral poets known as rhapsodes, committed epics to memory and recited them for the entertainment of the public. Because of this tradition, The Odyssey survived for centuries before it was finally written down. On October 4, we will celebrate the oral tradition with “Commit a Poem to Memory Day.” If The Odyssey seems too daunting, we can recommend Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Ithaka” which is about the odyssey we all undertake to find our own home.
October 5: The L.A. Odyssey Project at CicLAvia
Bicyclists will be invited to decorate their bikes and join along in an Odyssian journey that will include encounters with The Odyssey’s Lotus Eaters, Cyclops and the Sirens in downtown Los Angeles.
October 9: ‘An Odyssey of The Odyssey’ at The HAMMER Museum. In this unique one-night only event, writer/director and media artist Lars Jan brings together the worlds of theater, network science and data visualization to create a trans-disciplinary narrative for the digital age. Collaborating with actor Roger Guenveur Smith, the MAPPR team: ecologist Eric Berlow, data artist/designer David Gurman and computer scientist Kaustuv DeBiswas, and classics researcher Daniel Powazek, Jan will take us on a journey to experience the ripple effect of creative influence which Homer’s Odyssey has inspired across time, space and culture.
October 10: ‘A Strange Thing Happened on the Way to Ithaca’
Lost & Found at the Movies at Central Library. The Odyssey has inspired filmmakers around the world from George Melies in the earliest days of cinema to the Coen brothers in recent years. What is it about the epic poem that entices the cinematic imagination? What did we learn from the ancient Greeks about storytelling? What did we learn about Homer from Hollywood (and is any of it right)? And just how does all that swordplay happen? Celebrate the Library Foundation’s month-long exploration of The Odyssey with this look at the larger-than-life tale on film.
October 15: Alice Oswald at HAMMER Museum. Acclaimed British poet and Classicist Alice Oswald recites – from memory – her epic poem, “Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad.” Described as “a concentrated, intense, multi-tasking elegy” Memorial is poetry on a grand scale that brings the account of the Trojan War into contemporary focus. Recipient of the inaugural Ted Hughes Award, Alice Oswald has also won the T.S. Elliot Award and the Warwick Prize for Writing.
October 16: Alice Oswald at the Getty Villa. Renowned British poet and Classicist Alice Oswald, whose elegiac “Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad” won the 2013 Warwick Prize for Writing, shares her thoughts about Light as a character in The Odyssey and reads a poem on the subject.
L.A. artist Peter Shire joins Getty Villa curator Mary Hart for a conversation about ancient and contemporary storytelling through art. The tour features a presentation of Shire’s recent interpretation of a Greek vase, which sets the tale of Odysseus in contemporary Los Angeles. In the galleries, explore the ancient Greek vases that inspired his new work.
October 25: ‘Our Odyssey: A Reading of Homer’s Epic Poem By the People and For the People’ at Central Library. The words of the poet Homer were originally spoken aloud to rapt audiences who sat spellbound by tales of kings and heroes, battles and sorrow. Relive the experience of this oral tradition by taking part in an exciting daylong marathon reading of The Odyssey at the historic Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. Readers of all ages and backgrounds are invited to participate in this unique opportunity to bring this thrilling tale of the voyage of Odysseus to life and to enjoy the experience of reading poetry aloud. This program will be presented in association with The Readers of Homer, an organization that stages public readings of Homer’s epics around the world. During the day-long reading, Central Library will come alive with Odyssey-themed shadow puppet shows, food trucks, Cyclops sightings, arts and crafts, and more.
October 26: Libros Schmibros Book Club at HAMMER Museum. James Joyce scholar Colleen Jaurretche will lead the group in considering the relationship between Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s Ulysses.
David Finkel and Skip Rizzo, in conversation with Tom Curwen
When we ask young men and women to go to war, what are we asking of them? When their deployments end and they return – many of them are changed forever. How do they recover some facsimile of normalcy? MacArthur award-winning author David Finkel discusses the struggling veterans he chronicled in his deeply affecting book, Thank You for Your Service, with Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Director for Medical Virtual Reality at the Institute for Creative Technologies, who has pioneered the use of virtual reality-based exposure therapy to treat veterans suffering from PTSD.
For more information on these events, and to learn more about The L.A. Odyssey Project, related reading, and more visit the website here.