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About the Author

Daniel Mendelsohn is an award-winning author. He received a B.A. in Classics from the University of Virginia and received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Classics from Princeton University. Upon completing his Ph.D. in 1994, Mendelsohn began a career in journalism. In 2005 Mendelsohn was the recipient of a show more Guggenheim Fellowship for a translation of Cavafy's "Unfinished" poems, with commentary. His other honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award for Excellence in Book Reviewing (2000) and the George Jean Nathan Prize for Drama Criticism (2002). Mendelsohn's academic speciality is Greek (especially Euripidean) tragedy. In 2015 his title The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million made the New Zealand Best Seller List. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Author Daniel Mendelsohn at the 2018 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, United States. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74352264

Works by Daniel Mendelsohn

Associated Works

The Charterhouse of Parma (1839) — Commentary, some editions — 4,416 copies
Fire from Heaven (1969) — Introduction, some editions — 2,212 copies
Complete Poems (1961) — Translator, some editions — 1,806 copies
Augustus (1972) — Introduction, some editions — 1,590 copies
The Mrs Dalloway Reader (2003) — Contributor — 429 copies
The Glory of the Empire (1971) — Introduction, some editions — 194 copies
The Best American Travel Writing 2003 (2003) — Contributor — 178 copies
Beyond Queer: Challenging Gay Left Orthodoxy (1996) — Contributor — 170 copies
Quick Studies: The Best of Lingua Franca (2002) — Contributor — 109 copies
The Man I Might Become: Gay Men Write about Their Fathers (2002) — Contributor — 79 copies
A Favourite of the Gods and A Compass Error (2017) — Preface — 55 copies
Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents (2019) — Contributor — 18 copies


20th century (14) American (12) American literature (27) autobiography (33) biography (100) biography-memoir (10) classics (32) criticism (21) ebook (15) essays (103) family (46) family history (20) fathers and sons (12) gay (14) genealogy (20) genocide (12) Greece (16) history (176) Holocaust (296) Homer (35) identity (14) Jewish (49) Jewish History (25) Jews (32) Judaica (14) Judaism (18) Kindle (12) literary criticism (72) literature (46) memoir (227) non-fiction (240) Odyssey (29) Poland (28) read (13) Roman (14) to-read (188) travel (20) Ukraine (36) USA (24) WWII (143)

Common Knowledge



a hard book to read but beautifully done. I like the way he uses the Torah throughout and makes it as much about memory as about truth.
cspiwak | 43 other reviews | Mar 6, 2024 |
Meta-genre. Part history, part personal memoir, part literary criticism. The author is interested in a literary device, the so-called ring construction, which he describes as a digression within a text that might stand alone, and might connect, recursively, to other parts of the text or other texts altogether. He describes his own difficult time writing the history of his family in the Holocaust, followed by his experience reading the Odyssey with his father and their cruise to several Odyssey-sites. He refers back to these experiences recursively as he digresses to tell of Erich Auerbach, a German who fled the Holocaust to Turkey to try to write a comprehensive treatise on Western literature, contrasted with Francois Fenelon, a 17th century cleric who wrote a recursive digression that explained the absence of Odysseus' son in the middle part of the Odyssey. Finally there is a discussion of the recursions and rings in the work of another exile, WG Sebold.
All this material is intertwined in Mendelsohn's life---amusing overlaps and surprising bits of intellectual heritage. More interesting is the contrast between Greek and Hebraic storytelling. The former, in its use of the rings, tells an optimistic tale of connections (rings) that satisfy. The latter may see more intricacies, may include more detail, but may be darker insofar as the mysteries and miseries of lives are not resolvable. For Mendelsohn, I think he has found relief in his classical views, the relief that comes from finding, despite having been immersed in the unthinkable horror of the Holocaust, a sense of coherence.
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brianstagner | 2 other reviews | Mar 3, 2024 |
Abandoned each essay about 1/3 way through though I tried every essay. Sounded interesting but couldn't hold my attention. Guess I'm not the audience for this one.
SESchend | 2 other reviews | Feb 2, 2024 |
While Mendelsohn is obviously a fine writer and knowledgeable on Homer, I found the premise of this story a little too forced and too personal for my liking.

In this story Mendelsohn relates the year his retired father joined his seminar on Homer’s Odyssey, the journey in the father-son classic paralleling a journey this father and son have toward their own reconciliation.

Mendelsohn then takes his father on a cruise in the Mediterranean themed on the Odyssey.

He skips back and forth — quite skillfully in my opinion — between the seminar, his own real family events, the cruise, and some sleuthing the author does to fill in questions left unanswered about his father.

But he never really makes me feel “one of the family.”
He’s just a little too cold and calculating.

One of the sub-themes not fully explored in the book is how Mendelsohn himself traverses homosexuality to eventually become a father himself of two boys. But by the time I’ve learned more than I wanted to know about his father, I’m afraid I don’t want to know any more.

I can empathize with the desire, however, to better understand one’s father. In some unsavoury ways we try to compete with the past. And it can lead to some unhappy endings.

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MylesKesten | 30 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |



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