On the surface, this is ostensibly another guidebook to the show, packed with episode reviews and seasons analyses, but this one’s USP is that the writers always approach the material from their own perspectives. Everyone knows ‘Homer the Great’ is one of the series’ best, for example, but yet another round-up of its good points is enhanced by a touching, funny story about Grinter’s grandad being a Freemason himself (or was he a Stonemason?).
Like many fans, Grinter and Dando are particularly enamoured with The Simpsons’ first decade or so, which means this book caps off with season nine. This is by no means a complete retrospective on the show, then – it’s up to 29 seasons now, if you can believe it – but that suits the premise of the book. It’s not an exhaustive fact-file but a celebration of the series at its peak; how its rapier-sharp wit and characters that were surprisingly three-dimensional for cartoons inspired a lifelong love affair.
As such, it’s Grinter and Dando’s casual yet informative tone that is the book’s biggest strength. Their adoration, enthusiasm and encyclopaedic knowledge of The Simpsons shines through on every page. The format is also kept fresh with various different features, including interviews they were lucky enough to snag with the cast and crew, a little bit of fan fiction and a fiendishly-tricky trivia challenge that will prove whether you’re a Comic Book Guy-level fan.
If there is a flaw with this approach, it means that we get less time with the writers’ engaging analyses of the show itself. As it is, Homer’s Odyssey is shamelessly selective, with only a handful of episodes highlighted from the sparse nine seasons covered in the book, which might leave you craving a more comprehensive coverage. Still, that just means the writers have done their job of encouraging you to seek out their even more in-depth podcast.
In short, Homer’s Odyssey is perfect for both fans who have drifted away from the show over the years or those who have stuck with it all along. Either way, it’s an entertaining reminder that, at its best, The Simpsons can embiggen the soul. Yes, embiggen. It’s a perfectly cromulent word.
HOMER’S ODYSSEY: AN EMBIGGENED SIMPSONS GUIDE / AUTHORS: MITCH GRINTER, BRENDAN DANDO / PUBLISHER: CENTURY / RELEASE DATE: 2ND NOVEMBER