This week’s picks for your commute are all about homecoming: From a new novel to the original homeward journey, these texts, songs, and pictures will have you pondering the what it means to come home.
On Your Kindle
Home, by Toni Morrison
Pulitzer-prize winning, 81-year-old Toni Morrison is at it again. Her new novel, Home, is a compact emblem of her talent: It features complicated, damaged, yet strong African-American characters who struggle with big trauma, big shame, and big hopelessness against an intimate backdrop of small, gentle details. When reading Morrison’s fiction, you can almost hear a slow-toned narrator with a molasses voice, slowing the reader down with the richness of the everyday.
In Morrison’s tale, Frank Money is a Korean War veteran battling PTSD. When a cryptic letter informs Frank that his sister Cee, the apple of his eye, is gravely ill, he embarks on a reluctant journey to his hated hometown so he can care for her. Though the characters only spend a few pages of the novel in their actual home, the sense of self and the lessons they learned as children stay with them throughout the novel.
On Your Smartphone
The Military at Rest, theslate.com
In honor of Memorial Day, take a minute this morning to scroll through these images of American military men and women at rest. The slideshow of 20 photos transcends time, juxtaposing pictures of soldiers coming home from WWII and modern military members in Afghanistan. Each picture captures a soldier at rest or at play, reminding civilians of the everyday people who fight for the country.
On a Podcast
Going Home, by Leonard Cohen
When you’re going home this holiday Monday, take a few minutes to listen to this poem-song by Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen. Published as a poem and an audio clip in The New Yorker, this slow-tempoed, lyric song features Cohen’s deep, gravelly voice, almost chanting rather than singing. His slow strains will allow you to listen to the beautiful, haunting lyrics and ponder the relationship between the narrator and “Leonard,” that “sportsman a shepherd / …a lazy bastard / Living in a suit.”
The Odyssey, by Homer
If you have a longer than usual commute, pick up the quintessential homecoming tale. While homecoming has been a complicated theme accompanied by mixed feelings throughout literature, Homer’s original epic features little such equivocation. Odysseus’ passionate need to reclaim his kingdom in Ithaca and come home to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after seizing victory in the Trojan War drives the action of the story. Chapters, filled with lyric Homeric style, peppered with epic similes, and dripping with literary devices feature a bad-ass Odysseus fighting obstacle after obstacle in order to find his way home.
One of the coolest characters? Odysseus’ wife Penelope, who spends 10 years outsmarting the suitors who attempt to gain her hand in marriage—and her kingdom. She is a symbol of marital fidelity and a force to be reckoned with: Her wits are just as strong as those of her heroic husband.