No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey
Provoked by the response to an essay I wrote for the NPR show "All Things Considered" in which I officially gave up trying to read James Joyce's difficult Ulysses, I ended up in a reading group, reading (and, shockingly, enjoying) Ulysses. Next came, naturally, a purchase of Homer's Odyssey, on which Ulysses is based, which it turned out I had never read. I read it and loved it, finding it profoundly personal for a man entering middle age. Considering the Odyssey alongside Ulysses, which famously inspires its devotees to annually retrace the steps through Dublin of its protagonist Leopold Bloom, led to an actual journey through the Mediterranean, retracing the passage of Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca, trying to make modern sense of the oldest story we tell ourselves. No-Man's Lands is the result.
Here are some quotes from reviews:
“Huler tells the story in a breezy, entertaining style, deftly mixing historical and literary backstory with what happens on the road, making us laugh while introducing us to places we’ve never seen and people we’ve never met (but with whom we somehow feel connected). Recommend this one highly to fans of adventure memoirists like Bill Bryson and Tim Cahill.”
-- starred review in Booklist
“Fierce curiosity is the sharpest tool in this writer's kit, and its keen edge is evident everywhere here. … Part travelogue, part lit-crit, part self-discovery, part paean to home – and all in all, a most fantastic voyage."
-- Kirkus Reviews
“Huler is an extremely engaging guide. You can't help but be drawn into his quirky view of both the world through which he travels and the one depicted by Homer almost 30 centuries ago. Coaxed along by what can only be described as Huler's intoxicating friendliness, you find yourself rolling forward against a backdrop of enchantresses, one-eyed giants and delirious Lotus-eaters."
-- The Washington Post Book World
“[I]t’s fun following Huler as he tracks down possible real locations for Scylla and Charybdis and the Cyclops’ cave, and his insights into Odysseus’ character — and his own — seem dead-on.”
-- The New York Times Book Review
“An entertaining, conversational travelogue as well as an in-depth analysis of Homer's epic. Huler mixes in popular culture references (The Wizard of Oz is a favorite), humorous encounters with people and places, and tales of lucky coincidences and stupid mistakes.”
“Each of the 18 stages of Huler's largely improvised trip brings an illumination, often personal, which the author connects to Homer's poetry and to the larger meaning of Ulysses' mythic perambulations, translating an ancient odyssey into a modern quest that is by turns daunting, humorous and instructive.”
-- Chicago Tribune
“Engaging…. whether he's reconstructing history in Troy or paddling a rented kayak among ferries and container ships in the strait between Charybdis and Scylla, Huler is an intrepid, knowledgeable, and companionable guide.”
-- National Geographic Traveler
"Scott Huler's epic pilgrimage of real-time adventures and insights is derived from Odysseus' encounters with cyclopes, man-eating giants, and lonely goddesses. The Odyssey is written for people 'experienced in life's complexities, who can savour its counterintuitive turnings, find subtle undertastes in its cloudy wine,' Huler writes while tracing an elusive and often humourous route through Corfu, Sardinia, Tunisia, and neighbouring landscapes. If every schoolteacher made Homer's tale this engaging and relevant, we'd be a nation of classicists."
-- Virtuoso Life Magazine
“Through this six-month journey (Homer took two decades), we are treated to Huler's easygoing writing style, terrific sense of humor and better descriptions of foreign sites than can be found in some guidebooks.”
-- Denver Post
Crown, 2006; paperback, Crown, 2008
Click on the book to buy it at Amazon. Though it's worth noting I try to buy books at my local independent bookseller or used bookstore.
“A sheer delight. Filled with self-deprecating humor, No-Man's Lands provides numerous chuckles, but it has more to offer. The author's critical analyses reveal an impressive knowledge of Homeric questions, and he sagely applies his sensitive understanding of ancient history to our own world.”
-- Nashville Tennessean
“A compelling read, underlining the enduring appeal of the ‘Odyssey.’ … Hilarious. … The humorous, the painful, and the humorously painful bunk alongside a well-researched summary and interpretation of the ‘Odyssey.’”
-- Raleigh News & Observer
“What makes No-Man's Lands worth reading is how it demonstrates the connection between literature and life, that The Odyssey, fantastic adventures notwithstanding, is really a paean to the joys and sorrows of domestic life.”
-- Philadelphia Inquirer
“A highly entertaining memoir/travelogue that doubles as a fresh and surprisingly informative guide to the history and themes of The Odyssey. … deeply thought-provoking – an epic writ small.”
-- Shelf Awareness
“Huler engages the reader in his journey over not just terrain but centuries … weaves his trip, his research, his interests, his obsession, his self into his own enlightenment of a classic.”
-- Boston Globe
“Compelling and thoroughly inspiring, Huler's latest is a brilliant follow-up to his acclaimed book Defining the Wind.”
-- Strand Bookstore, New York
“Huler is a highly entertaining travel companion with an oral storyteller’s flair for humor …. But Huler is a thoughtful traveler as well, aware that the journey is always more important than the destination.”
-- American Way