Storytelling is dead. Nobody wants to sit around listening to Homer tell his tales. The people who love his yarns are all old and are dying out. The youth of Athens have found other media and activities to amuse them.
Storytelling is dead.
Nobody wants to sit around listening to Homer tell his tales. The people who love his yarns are all old and are dying out. The youth of Athens have found other media and activities to amuse them.
Some of the young go to the open-air proscenium and laugh at the bawdy Aristophanes; others line the roads and watch marathons. The reckless among them play touch football with the Spartans.
Furthermore, Homer himself is practically ancient. Even when he is in good health, his voice is weak and only a dozen or so can hear him spin his yarns at the tavern. So the old days of standing room only are over.
Although I have to admit the story last week about the wily Odysseus and the Cyclops was a thriller. Especially the escape scene in which Odysseus and his men hide under the bellies of sheep and escape the cave, even though the now-blinded Cyclops felt the sides of his sheep as they exited the cave. Odysseus and his men were strapped under the sheep’s bellies.
And although a later episode is rated M for mature audiences, the tale of Odysseus and the temptress Circe is incredibly explicit. Circe knows more about love than Zeus does about lightning. She could rock the Parthenon.
But nobody wants to sit around waiting for Homer and his long monologues. He goes into too much back-story and details about storms, hubris, envious gods, lost loves. People today want the short filmic scenes. They don’t care about the long narrative or the context. Action scenes, monster-transformers, three-headed hydras, those are the things people want to hear about.
So they are turning to other, more portable formats. The clay tablet is catching on. You can see more and more people reading their portable tablets in the agora as they buy their olives.
Mosaics are the new stories. In one glance, a viewer can see the action and the denouement. And mosaics are coming down in price.
Chariot races are booming and have become the national pastime. I know, most people think naked wrestling is the top spectator sport of Athens but more people line the oval tracks watching whizzing wheels than watch heavily oiled, grunting wrestlers. The rumor is that the wrestling may be staged anyway.
So let’s toast to the glory of the epic poem and its passing. It was great while it lasted but it didn’t change with the times. Attention spans these days last as long as Homer’s short-term memory. Ask him what he ate for lunch and he can’t remember. Ask him what armament the Trojans wore on the second year of the siege of Troy in June and he will give you details that would impress a museum curator.
But, alas, the beauty was in the details and they have faded away. Odysseus is home now and sits in his atrium looking out at the hills. The sea is just a memory and a story on a scroll waiting to be told.
Peter Costa is a senior editor with GateHouse Media New England. His most recent humor book is “Outrageous CostaLiving: Still Laughing Through Life,” available at amazon.com