Scott Huler at WCU’s Literary Festival

During the week long festivities of the Literary Festival this spring, I was fortunate to hear a reading from Scott Huler’s latest book, No Man’s Land. A journalist and previous National Public Radio (NPR) contributor, Scott Huler is said to have written about everything “from the death penalty to bikini wax.”

No Man’s Land is a book about Huler’s quest to trace the route of Homer’s Odyssey through the Mediterranean while relating the story of Odysseus to Huler’s “mid-life crisis.”

The idea for the book started with a bet Huler made with himself. He announced on his public radio show “All Things Considered” that he would forever give up trying to read James Joyce’s Ulysses (the Latin name for Odysseus). This, humorously, ends up putting him with a Ulysses reading group. Huler claims that this group led him to re-explore The Odyssey to the point of obsession. Eventually, he came to realize that retracing the steps of Odysseus would be the crisis of his mid-forties. “After all, Odysseus was also in his mid-forties,” Huler reasoned. “Perhaps this story is a work meant to speak to people in their forties, so why not take the trip?”

The only problem was no one knows where it was that Odysseus and his crew supposedly traveled. “You meet three types of people,” Huler noted. “The first feels that it is a ‘true belief’ where you must consult all elements of nature to figure out where the boat traveled, the second believe it is just a story and the third are reasonable and think that the boat traveled in the West Mediterranean according to accurate historical events.” Huler decided to just wing it. He traveled throughout the entire western Mediterranean, landing in places he could only suppose were “the Island of the Lotus Eaters” and the seas of Scylla and Charybdis. What Huler discovered on this journey was how much the Odyssey applies to living a good life and being a better boss, teacher, parent and a better person all around.

Huler read a section about the difficulties of traveling on a whim with no reservations. His writing style was light-hearted and humorous yet each word had a journalistic presence and sense of purpose in his book. I enjoyed how Huler used Homer’s story as a metaphor for life and used humor as a means to relay his writing. His story is a modern epic that can be likened to Beowulf or the humor to that of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I completely enjoyed his writing and performance. I enjoyed it so much I bought the book and honestly it was worth it.