Let Me Entertain You

Professor Porn: Dan Brown

So you call yourself well-read? That’s okay. I do, too. Then I talk to people who write or work in academia or pretty much anyone, and I realize that I am not even close to well-read, despite the fact that I read all the time. I am a glimmer of well-read.

Part of writing is not just reading, but what you read. Books you’ve never heard of are being buzzed about in the literary journals and websites. Never mind that you can’t buy them anywhere in your West Texas town (but you can buy every celebrity book known to man). And so you track down those books online, trying to purchase them from independent book sellers so as not to feed to corporate machine. They arrive. They are wondrous. You journal about them. You makes notes. You write an entire story inspired by a single sentence.

When I follow this process, I find the reward of reading to be exceptional. Words like craft, voice, and style resonate.

That being said, sometimes I just want to a one-night stand, junk food pig-out reading experience. One that, when I reach the end, I am fine that I’m done and fine that I read it, but not much more. There is a fix for this type of craving. And his name is Dan Brown.

Yes, folks, I read Dan Brown. Or, to be more precise, I read Robert Langdon.

Whatever controversies Brown’s work may cause, whatever backlash he may get from the literary community, Dan Brown knows how to throw down his story. Sure, his characters are so flat that Flat Stanley looks well-developed, and fact-checking things about works of art and buildings isn’t always his strong point. But his pacing and ability suck the reader in to the conflicting worlds of science and religion through the lens of art is impressive. Having just finished Inferno, I can’t say that the story was my favorite (Angels and Demons still holds that honor), but it was fine and it gave me the fix I needed. See, it’s not the conspiracy theories and secret societies I come for: it’s the professor as hero fantasy of Robert Langdon.

Robert Langdon, my friends, is not just A professor. He is THE professor in an epic sense of the word. A lecturer from Harvard who famously wears tweed and loafers, he’s like a casting notice for a Harvard-set movie. He writes books on obscure topics yet still manages to have fans. His renown is, in fact, so great that not only do museum curators metaphorically drop their panties when he turns up, showering him with VIP tours and private access, freaking governments call him up because the world will end if someone doesn’t look at this painting.

If Fifty Shades of Grey is mommy porn, then Dan Brown is professor porn.

I can’t speak for people who work on the academic side of science or math, but I would guess that they have this life-saving feeling. They are experts on subjects that directly impact life. For us English folks, passionate as we are, there isn’t much of a chance the government is going to pull us in for a top secret think tank on “The Wasteland,” (we wouldn’t be able to agree on anything anyway). Robert Langdon is the fantasy that being an expert in a humanities/fine arts topic can be important in life or death situations.

Let’s look at his strengths, shall we? He’s a master on symbols in religion, history, and literature. He can recall details without notes or outlines. Most important, due to his swimming I would guess, he has the impressive ability to impart his vast array of knowledge while running for his life (or it least walking at a brisk pace). These are not super powers. No, no. These are super PROFESSOR powers. Good professors can quote without books, be specific with few notes. They can prowl the classroom or even answer in depth questions while walking to class.

Robert Langdon is our Superman.

And his weakness? Claustrophobia from a childhood accident similar to the one that left Bruce Wayne with a fear of bats. Granted, usually there is some sort of scientific thing involved in Langdon’s race to decode, but most of the time there is an attractive woman or convenient expert nearby to explain.

The fantasy of his type of knowledge saving the world is tempting. Who knows? Perhaps someday I will get a call that begins,

“Is this Professor Amber Kelly-Anderson? The president needs you to explain Beowulf using a video game boss fight analogy. But you must hurry! The fate of the world is in your hands!”

 

 

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Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Objects de Art | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things that Rocked May 19-25

  1. I’ve been looking a great deal at blog design for inspiration and come across a number of fab destinations. My current obsession is with A Beautiful MessSo many fantastic ideas.
  2. Lucky me was published twice on Cinefilles this week. Check out my review of Star Trek Into Darkness and my retrospective on Cleopatra.
  3. Next week, aside from basking the glory of Margaret Atwood, I’m getting my second tattoo. While looking for the perfect font, I found this fantastic piece about why a mother got a tattoo with her daughter.
  4. It was also my week on The Baraza where I share my favorite graduation themed pop culture moments.
  5. On The Review Review, this article on Twitter Fiction had me thinking and working on my brevity.

XO

A

Categories: Feed the Belly, Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things that Rocked May 12-18

1. I wrote this post about The Blind Assassin. I got this tweet in reply. Swoon.

2. My Wromance (writing romance) A.J. Kandathil wrote about the Five Pillars of Place using Park and Rec on Ploughshares. ‘Cause that’s how she rolls ( awesome, that’s how she rolls).

3. While you are on the  Ploughshares blog, take a gander at the piece I wrote about Cowboy Poetry. You should read it. It’s okay, you can click now. This list will wait.

4. The Office aired its final episode. I cried. I’ll write about it next week. In the meantime, rewatch The Office or watch it for the first time. Either way, win-win-win. In the meantime, enjoy this:

5. Two of my favorite shows growing up were Designing Women and The Golden Girls. This article reminds me why I loved Dorothy and may be like her in about thirty years.

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Things that Rocked May 5-11

  1. A blog I’ve just discovered, interesting literature, wrote a thoughtful post on Fitzgerald and the underrated This Side of Paradise. Aside from a brief outline of the writer, it is full of fun tidbits, like he was the first person to use wicked with a positive connotation. Learn something new every day, right?
  2. Ashley Wells is doing a fantastic series on women and horses. Topics have included warrior women, Betty Draper and horses, and an interview with the author of The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.
  3. Aaron Gilbreath launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming book, Crowded, about life in confined spaces. It’s worth checking out just for the insightful reading material he provides. Find the link to the campaign the blog post linked above.
  4. On The Baraza, Katie Shaw gave some songs to motivate students through those long hours of studying for finals. I provided a companion piece for professors to sustain them through the long hours of grading.
  5. Finally, in honor of Mother’s Day, take a gander at Book Riot’s “Fictional Mother Whose Parenting Books Would Rock.” I’d preorder all three. What about you?

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Great Gatsby Illusion

When I list books that changed my life, The Great Gatsby tops the list. By the time I read it in high school, I already knew I wanted to be a writer and had since third grade when I tried to write my first novel (it was about horses because my best friend drew crazy good horses). But I remember the exact line in Fitzgerald’s novel when I fell in love with words in a different way:

“The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean.”

It’s a simple sentence, yet so much happens: simile and metaphor, color symbolism, and his implied time element (isn’t the story, after all, about what can happen for just a moment?). It’s a glorious piece of writing.

And so it is with great trepidation that I anticipate Baz Luhrmann’s anachronistic adaptation. I admit I have not seen the movie and I am trying to refrain from judging before I do; that being said, I have a feeling they picked the wrong guy to bring this once more to the screen.

A few years ago I was reading an interview with Jack Nicholson where they asked him what role he missed out on that he regretted. His answer was losing out on Jay Gatsby to Robert Redford. Just reading the sentence, I cringed. Nicholson as Gatsby? Granted this was before he became a caricature of himself, back when he was doing Reds and China Town. Still–Nicholson? Then I read his reasoning. He explained that the problem with Redford was that he was Jay Gatsby, but he was not James Gatz. Robert Redford represented the illusion of what Jay Gatsby should be without being the man James Gatz actually was. He saw himself as James Gatz.

I’d never thought about it that way, but for some reason the idea resonated with me. The book is about illusion, deceit, and identity. Based on the previews, Luhrmann has taken the illusion part of the story to eleven. My concern is that as a director he is one who favors style over substance. His movies explode visually in a chaos of color and sound; however, he seems to fear silence and stillness. Flappers swirling on trapezes, a Jay-Z soundtrack, fireworks–this is the illusion of Gatsby. Does Luhrmann have the self-control and temperance to tell the story behind the illusion without making the film about the very things Fitzgerald attempted to critique? I’m not sure.

On one hand I’m excited for the visual escapism of it; on the other, I have a feeling that I should not view the film as a representation of the spirit of the book lest I be disappointed. But isn’t that usually the rule with adaptations?

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Five Things that Rocked April 28 – May 4

  1. It would have been enough that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played for the Lakers and is the leading NBA scorer of all times. But then he stayed loyal to the Lakers, working as their assistant coach. He even made some people unhappy when he rightly criticized the NBA for taking players straight out of high school instead having them complete four years of college. He’s even in a Bruce Lee movie (granted a terrible Bruce Lee movie). Now he has made himself a rock star of epic proportions by writing an article for The Huffington Post (swoon) over the The Real Housewives franchise that appropriately references hubris and the unreliable narrator. Love times a billion.
  2. Claire Messud’s response to the implied sexism of a question about the likability of her main character. Fantastic.
  3. This letter to moms. I’ll admit I teared up.
  4. Bookriot’s guide to summer book-based movies.
  5. Buzzfeed showing some redhead love. Sunscreen for everyone!

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Signs of the Season: An Anthem on Cheating

Sadly, I have had to have more conversations this year regarding this subject than ever before. Catching a student cheating (in my subject, it’s usually plagiarism), makes my stomach drop. It makes me angrier and sadder than any of the other things student do. If only I could carry a tune while strutting through the campus looking all sassy. At least it might make me feel better.

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Signs of the Season: Conversations with Students, Part 1

This is not actually a spoof–this is real life.

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

The Z that Stands for Zorro

In Part 4 of my Cowboy series on Ploughshares, I confessed my love of Zorro. The Zorro legend began as a pulp character in 1919. Zorro, which literally means fox, is the superhero identity of Don Diego de la Vega, a wealthy Spanish nobleman who battles the corrupt establishment during the Colonial Spanish era.

Zorro has been reinvented over the years, most recently with Antonio Banderas. However, long before Banderas donned the famous mask, I have had a fascination with Zorro, specifically the 1957 Disney television series.

It’s logical that Zorro would appeal to me–I loved Robin Hood and the Scarlet Pimpernel when I was kid. Zorro is of the same cloth. Add the allure of colonial era California to sword play, horsemanship, and Guy Williams’ matinee idol performance (although he was Italian rather than Spanish) and we’ve got a ball game.

When I think of that short lived series, I think of the music, particularly Bernardo’s theme, which highlighted the work of pantomimist Gene Sheldon. I think of the rhythmic speech patterns of both Williams and the fabulous Henry Calvin. And I think of laying on the floor of my grandparents back bedroom, glued to a show that had been off the air for almost 30 years.

I own the series on DVD in all its black and white glory (I am a huge critic of colorizing black and white–gross). Soon might be the time to introduce my daughter to the fox so cunning and free.

XO

A

Categories: Let Me Entertain You | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

X

is for 10 things that rocked this week. See how I did that? It’s X day, but I’m twisting it for my own meaning. Perhaps I should got into politics. This week was pretty stellar, I have to say, so coming up with 10 instead of 5 was an easy task.

  1. Buzzfeed article are regulars on my list because they are so darn funny. My favorite from this week? “26 Reasons Kids Are Pretty Much Just Tiny Drunk Adults.”
  2. Kendragarden talks about her love of Horror movies. She likes what she likes and that’s okay.
  3. Artist Jhenai Mootz gave a fantastic Wild Women interview.
  4. We’ve been watching House of  Cards on Netflix. It’s shaping up to be really intriguing, although I have mixed feelings about Kate Mara being the Mistress–again.
  5. Loving the new season of Mad Men? Over on Ploughshares, A.J. Kandathil (my new pen pal bestie) discusses the “hidden narrator” who drives the series. A thought provoking take on a show that often defies explanation.
  6. Caitlin O’Neil’s “Riding in Cars with Words” reminisces about how her childhood road trips have shaped her as a writer. Plus it has a Muppet video, which is always a good decision.
  7. Part Four of my look at Cowboys debuted this week. I hope people are enjoying reading these posts as much as I’m enjoying writing them.
  8. It was a big week in general for writing on my end: both Cinefilles and The Baraza featured my posts, on Shakespeare and Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers, respectively.
  9. Peggy Orenstein’s look at the sexualization of Candyland is insightful and thought provoking.
  10. Speaking of Orenstain, I finished reading Schoolgirls and wrote this post on it. The reaction has been fantastic. Thanks to all of you who have Tweeted, Shared, Commented, Emailed, and Texted me about this post and how much you can relate. My only regret is that I only have one copy to lend out and the line is getting longer every day.

What rocked your week?

XO

A

Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, The Little People and Furry Friends, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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