Odysseus and Wile E. Coyote

Compared to Homer and Vergil, the Saturday morning cartoons are healthy-minded.

In colloquy with Brad DeLong, I expressed doubt that Odysseus was a fit hero for moderal liberals. My friend Philip offers a different viewpoint on Odysseus and his fellow marauders considered as literary characters to be presented to the young.

Wile E. Coyote

Wile E. Coyote –


western Daedalus or Icarus,

Prometheus or Tantalus unchained,

tortured less by the bird

than his own desire –

has been edited

from his cartoon hell

of dry river beds,

boulders, and anvils,

treacherous hand-grenades

and fickle physical laws,

into a worse purgatory,

(not spared the mid-air


that he has run too far,

the shock that the Sisyphean stone

is rolling back to him)

where he must fall,

pursued by half a cliff,

but never crash,

be crushed and crawl away,

impossibly alive and hungry

to try again,

by some who’d rather children read

of the slaughter of the Trojan War,

of Pyrrhus’s words to Priam,

of Odysseus’s hall spattered

with blood and the twitching

feet of his sluttish servants

hanged like doves in the garden.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com