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No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey [Kindle Edition]

Scott Huler
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

When NPR contributor Scott Huler made one more attempt to get through James Joyce’s Ulysses, he had no idea it would launch an obsession with the book’s inspiration: the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey and the lonely homebound journey of its Everyman hero, Odysseus.No-Man’s Lands is Huler’s funny and touching exploration of the life lessons embedded within The Odyssey, a legendary tale of wandering and longing that could be read as a veritable guidebook for middle-aged men everywhere. At age forty-four, with his first child on the way, Huler felt an instant bond with Odysseus, who fought for some twenty years against formidable difficulties to return home to his beloved wife and son. In reading The Odyssey, Huler saw the chance to experience a great vicarious adventure as well as the opportunity to assess the man he had become and embrace the imminent arrival of both middle age and parenthood.But Huler realized that it wasn’t enough to simply read the words on the page—he needed to live Odysseus’s odyssey, to visit the exotic destinations that make Homer’s story so timeless. And so an ambitious pilgrimage was born . . . traveling the entire length of Odysseus’s two-decade journey. In six months.Huler doggedly retraced Odysseus’s every step, from the ancient ruins of Troy to his ultimate destination in Ithaca. On the way, he discovers the Cyclops’s Sicilian cave, visits the land of the dead in Italy, ponders the lotus from a Tunisian resort, and paddles a rented kayak between Scylla and Charybdis and lives to tell the tale. He writes of how and why the lessons of The Odyssey—the perils of ambition, the emptiness of glory, the value of love and family—continue to resonate so deeply with readers thousands of years later. And as he finally closes in on Odysseus’s final destination, he learns to fully appreciate what Homer has been saying all along: the greatest adventures of all are the ones that bring us home to those we love. Part travelogue, part memoir, and part critical reading of the greatest adventure epic ever written, No-Man’s Lands is an extraordinary description of two journeys—one ancient, one contemporary—and reveals what The Odyssey can teach us about being better bosses, better teachers, better parents, and better people.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As this literary travelogue opens, NPR contributor and author Huler (Defining the Wind) sounds like he's going to renege on his 2001 pledge never to read James Joyce's Ulysses. He joins a Ulysses reading group, but finds himself more fascinated by the story behind it: Homer's The Odyssey, which he'd also never read. A plan is born: to retrace Odysseus' twenty-year travels. Huler's first challenge is that nobody really knows where any of the locations actually are-finding them, he says, is like hunting for the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz. Although Huler initially tries too hard to relate his slapdash wanderings to the text (a ride on a Homer-themed cruise has him saying, "I found myself among these magical seafarers, exactly like Odysseus"), he eventually gives in to the randomness of his travels, and the book is all the better for it. While fighting his way onto crowded ferries or showing up in tiny hamlets with no hotel reservations, he has some realizations about the man he's following and about journeying as its own reward. Huler's book is not without flaws, but in essence, as he himself concludes about The Odyssey's continuing appeal, "the story has good bones."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 2001 the author, an NPR contributor, learned that you really shouldn’t say certain things on the air—like, for instance, that you will never read James Joyce’s Ulysses. Because devotees of the book might challenge you to give it a fair try, and you might wind up rereading the epic poem that inspired Joyce, Homer’s Odyssey. And then you might find yourself in the Mediterranean, retracing Odysseus’ voyage from Troy to Ithaca. Well, that’s what happened to Huler, anyway, and it’s a good thing, too: not only did he develop a new appreciation of a classic piece of literature but he also found a new side of his own character: not only a husband and a father but also a lone traveler on an epic journey. It sounds a little artsy-fartsy, but 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. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 587 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400082838
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (March 11, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015KGWO2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,815 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sheer delight! April 6, 2008
At age 44, having finally read James Joyce's Ulysses (which he had vowed never to do), Scott Huler immerses himself in Homer's epic tale, The Odyssey, and embarks on an adventurous six-month pilgrimage to retrace Odysseus's return from the Trojan war to Penelope and Telemachus, his wife and son, in Ithaca.

When Polyphemus the Cyclops demands to know Odysseus' identity, Odysseus replies, "My name is No-man." Later, when the Cyclops cries out, "No-man is killing me!" his fellow Cyclopes think he is not in any trouble. Hence the book's title, and Huler's determination to boldly go where No-man has gone before.

Along the way, we encounter the Lotus-eaters, the Cyclopes, the Laestrygonians, the witch Circe, the kingdom of the dead, the island of the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, the cattle of the sun, and enjoy many other episodes.

Whether The Odyssey is historical/geographical or a mythological tale imagined by a poet ("The poets always lie," said Plato), cannot be ascertained. However, Huler quotes many ancient Greek and Roman writers--Thucydides, Strabo, Herodotus, Ovid, Pausanias, Polybius--who provide a plausible itinerary for Odysseus's travels.

Reading Huler's travelogue/memoir is a sheer delight! Filled with self-deprecating humor, No-Man's Lands provides numerous chuckles and laughs. The book is more than slapstick humor, however. The author's critical analyses reveal an impressive knowledge of Homeric questions, and his sensitive judgments takes the answers he learns and sagely applies to our own lives and world.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genial and thoughtful memoir of a modern Odysseus March 19, 2008
Back in 2001 author and radio commentator Scott Huler swore that he would never read James Joyce's "Ulysses" after a number of failed efforts to do so. Inevitably, soon afterwards Huler found himself a member of a reading group focused on reading "Ulysses". And Huler found himself thinking more and more about Homer's "Odyssey", the fountain from which "Ulysses" sprang. He determined to re-read "The Odyssey", but then found to his chagrin that he could not "re-read" it because he had never actually read it in the first place, beyond a junior high school exposure to the book which -- like most such high school exposures to the great classics -- was much more an exercise in escaping reading "The Odyssey". So, as a mature adult Huler began genuinely reading the epic poem and became entranced by it, to the point that he decided to undertake a journey to follow Odysseus's path across the Mediterranean and seek to better understand the places experienced and the lessons learned by the ancient Greek hero, "the man of twists and turns." These are lessons applicable to everyday life, it would seem -- not that Huler ever adopts a didactic (or even overtly "inspiring") tone. Rather, "No-Man's Lands" is pleasantly rambling.

"No-man's Lands" is Huler's tale of his journey, as much of a journey through his heart and mind as through the Mediterranean. It is good-natured and thoughtful. And along the way, the reader learns with Huler much about the real soul of "The Odyssey".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As Huler admitted, I gave only a cursory read to "The Odyssey" back in grade school. Since then, I've heard that it is the genesis of all story prototypes, heard that it is a critical piece of oral and written literary traditions, and even repeated these mantras as if they were my own realizations. Upon reading Huler's fine book, though, I finally see what professors, lit-snobs, and well-bred readers actually mean with those comments. Huler quite ingeniously presented The Odyssey through lessons, asides, and the narration of his own trip, in a way that penetrates the language (er, poetry) barrier and shows me what all the buzz is about. He also entertains on nearly every page, weaving his story very well around the original Odyssey, making me laugh and cringe and read passages out loud to hear echoes of my own inner monologue in his words. I'd be glad to heist a brew with Huler; I feel more confident now in discussing the Odyssey; most importantly, I feel my money and time were very, very well spent on his book. Perhaps next he could take a road trip tracing Sherman's March to the Sea...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book!! July 4, 2008
A very interesting book. Scott Huler does a very good job of blending an ancient tale of travel and adventure with his own personal wanderings around Southern Europe. Scott's obsession with "The Odyssey" becomes the reader's obsession too. - Ray Charlton
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good travelogue through the Odyssey January 19, 2009
I'm sorta like the author at the beginning of this book in that I haven't read the Odyssey but feel like I have because I've been exposed to so many elements of the story from other sources. Hence, I enjoyed the author taking us through the book and explaining the underlying meaning of Odysseus' adventures (though I'm unsure I agree with his interpretation. I also found the discussion on what places might best represent the places Odysseus' visited. The author's travelogue of his visits to those places was reasonably interesting though I thought his efforts to periodically tie his rather pedestrian adventures to those of Odysseus were often strained (though I think the author was aware of this). The ending drags (as with the Odyssey itself), when the author returns home and start expounding on the birth of his first child and the meaning of life and how it all relates. This meandering sentimentality kind of spoils the finish, but otherwise this is a interesting and worthwhile read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Walking in the footsteps of no-man (4.5 stars)
Huler's book recounts an enviable journey - an attempt at walking in the footsteps of one of Western literature's greatest figures, Odysseus. Read more
Published 19 months ago by David Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational, Entertaining and Enjoyable - All in One Book
Scott Huler's "No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey" was a very enjoyable, irreverent, and informative book which I enjoyed tremendously. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Frank L. Urbano
5.0 out of 5 stars An Odyssey Exploring The Odyssey
How meta: an odyssey exploring Homer's The Odyssey. Scott Huler has a baby on the way and one last adventure in his soul. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Doug Cornelius
5.0 out of 5 stars Beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick
This is a fun book, but also one that's full of insights into history, live, travel, adventure, and the human condition. Read more
Published on April 12, 2012 by Tom King
5.0 out of 5 stars Confessions of a Traveler
The author's quest to retrace the path of Odysseus (a.k.a. Ulyssses) through the Mediterranean, with back pack in hand and without tour group or pre-booked accommodations, truly... Read more
Published on July 13, 2010 by Ron
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Odyssey In Itself
This is probably one of the best books I've read in a while. As a teacher of Mythology, I happened upon this book when I was searching for supplements for my Odyssey unit. Read more
Published on April 5, 2009 by Zak Hamby
4.0 out of 5 stars superb travel writing
Huler leads us all over the Mediterranean and on the way rekindles an interest in the classics, which seem in his telling as timely as today's newpaper. Now on to the Odyssey.
Published on January 27, 2009 by C. D. Perry
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
I love travel books that throw in lots of history and this book does that and more. Just plain fun to read, especially if you have any background in reading The Odyssey.
Published on January 13, 2009 by S. Benson
5.0 out of 5 stars No Man"S Land by SAcott Huler
This is an unusual interesting book combining a synopsis of Homer"s Odyssey with a travelogue describing the current state and feel of the most likely locations. Read more
Published on September 27, 2008 by Ajay H. Parghi
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal journey through Homer's Odyssey
Exceptional. Read this with one eye on Homer's version and the other on Huler's. An epic journey all comes together.
Published on July 8, 2008 by Joyce A. Helfand
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More About the Author

As a writer for newspapers, magazines, and radio programs Scott Huler has addressed everything from the death penalty to bikini waxing. His books range equally widely -- from "On Being Brown," about the relationship between his hometown NFL Cleveland Browns and their rabid fans to "No-Man's Lands," about a journey retracing the path of Homer's Odysseus. Born in Cleveland in 1959, Huler has lived all over the country and in England. His work has appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and International Herald Tribune and in magazines like Backpacker and Fortune. His radio work has been heard nationally on such shows as "All Things Considered," "Marketplace," and "Splendid Table" and internationally on the Voice of America's "VOA News Now." He lives in Raleigh, N.C., with his wife, the writer June Spence, and their two boys.

You can learn more about him by visiting his website at


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