Friday, April 4, 2008

Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again (University of California Press: 2008).

Informed that a deadly cancer will soon end his career as a college president, Martin defies the medical prognosis and then embarks upon an unlikely sabbatical adventure: enrolling in a small liberal-arts college as a 61-year-old freshman. The account of this adventure illuminates the renewing power of education even for a man well past his prime. By watching Martin wrest fresh meaning from Plato and
Aeschylus, Herodotus and Thucydides, readers gain a deeper appreciation for the perennial challenge posed by these classical authors. But it is Homer who schools this unusual freshman most profoundly, the bard's Odysseus furnishing him with an illuminating metaphor for his own circumstances as an aging warrior pursuing an
uncertain journey home after a hard-fought victory. Waylaid not by cyclopes and sirens, Martin must vanquish his own anxieties as he struggles to keep up with classmates one-third his age, comparing his intellectual insights with theirs in the classroom and coordinating his physical exertions with theirs on a college rowing team. But beyond Martin's private insecurities, larger questions emerge about
the contemporary significance of the liberal arts in a careerist society. Alternately amusing and poignant, Martin's personal epic offers a much-needed perspective on cultural dilemmas both ancient and modern.

From Booklist, September 15, 2008

For a link to the University of California Press, click here