Book: Turn Left at the Trojan Horse: A Would-Be Hero’s American Odyssey
Author: Brad Herzog
I was really excited to read this book, because it’s a narrative story about the author’s month-long solo cross-country RV trip. I took a similar trip for four months in a van, and while many people suggested that I turn my experience into a book, I didn’t see any particular angle that was book-worthy.
So I was eager to see how Herzog did it. His angle is that he’s trying to discover what it means to be a hero in modern society. He ties this in to Greek mythology by constantly interspersing mythological stories with his travel tales.
On one hand, the mythological angle is a clever writing technique to tie the whole story together. But for people like myself, who have zero interest in mythology or ancient Greece, it pretty much ruins the book.
The story starts off great, with a humorous tale of Herzog’s experience on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. But as I keep reading, Herzog loses me. He writes about all the people he meets on a northerly trek from Washington state to Ithaca, New York. The problem is these people are boring. They don’t have compelling stories.
To keep alive the book’s flimsy premise, everything gets compared to Greece. Herzog’s hair loss reminds him of Hippocrates. A tractor pull becomes a rumination on midlife crises involving the theories of Socrates and Aristotle. Spotting a bird with a snake in its mouth causes him to launch into a discourse on the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Occasionally, Herzog relates his tale to the travels of Lewis & Clark, when he passes through towns where the famed explorers visited. Those parts are interesting. But inevitably, he goes back to the Hercules, Achilles, Homer and Olympus references, and I tune out.
By the end of the book, the neverending Greek references are downright comical. I’m laughing at Herzog, not with him. The ridiculousness peaks with this sentence: “I feel like Prometheus, who suffered the retribution of Zeus after stealing from Mount Olympus.”
Just what is this huge, life-changing event that inspires such a strong reaction in Herzog? He’s flipping through the radio dial and keeps hearing Rush Limbaugh.
Seriously. That’s it. Somehow, that insignificant occurrence causes Herzog to exaggerate his experience to the point that he feels a sense of kinship with a Greek figure.
While the unintentional hilarity of Herzog comparing every mundane event to the events of Greek history and mythology can be a bit entertaining at times, it’s a huge drag on the story. Toss in the fact that the people he interviews aren’t particularly interesting, and you have a book that just doesn’t hold my attention.
Then again, I didn’t like On the Road, either, so what do I know?