Happy March! We are so excited that spring has finally sprung here at GBHQ that we are celebrating with a special Nerd of the Month DOUBLE FEATURE.
Meet Thomas Hopper, Southern gentleman, Renaissance scholar, Renaissance man, and the reason everyone has food and shelter at Great Books @Amherst.
Name: Thomas Hopper (T-Hopp/T-Money/T-Dubb)
Life status: I’m a doctoral student at UMass Amherst and an English teacher at Eagle Hill School, Hardwick, MA. Besides my dissertation (ughhh), I’m working on editing the second edition of the Companion to Renaissance Drama (Wiley). I’m teaching Thoreau, Brit Lit, African-American Lit, and two sections of Writers’ Workshop. My fave is Af-Am lit because the kids keep asking for more and more difficult stuff to read, so I’m giving it to them.
Relationships to Great Books: Assistant Program Director and Keeper of Keys at Amherst.
Nerdy fun fact: I collect copies of the “Iliad.”
Nerdiest attribute: My beard. I stroke it and it gives me powers.
Favorite book: Like, ever? Or in a specific time period and geography? Yikes. I guess “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy.
Currently reading: “Seveneves” by Neil Stephenson; “As You Like It;” the poetry of Phyllis Wheatley.
Foreign/dead/fictional languages spoken: Ancient Greek and enough Latin to get by.
First fictional crush: Probably Rachel from the “Animorphs” series. I loved when she would morph into a bear and fight. Or Aviendha from “Wheel of Time,” who’s a Maiden of the Spear who can also do magic…notice a trend here? I love tough women.
Which author would you want to write your story?: Sophocles, so that every kid would have to read my story in high school, hate it until they got to college, then re-read it and realize how awesome it is.
Who would win in a fight? Dumbledore’s Army vs. the Avengers?: Depends. Does expelliarmus work on Mjolnir? Can the Hulk be stupified? Will the Cruciatus Curse penetrate Iron Man’s armor or Captain America’s shield? Can Hawkeye be any more lame? If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then the DA wins. If not, the Avengers by a landslide.
Can the movie ever be better than the book?: No, but they can exist as separate and equally profound works of art, like “Cold Mountain,” “The English Patient,” “No Country for Old Men,” or “Love in the Time of Cholera.” Films can change the focus of novels, and play up certain elements that the novel suppresses or doesn’t develop, but not better, no.
Hardcover or paperback?: Hardcover books are investments. Paperbacks are gifts. I often give my paperbacks away to friends as gifts, but never a hardcover. Hardcovers have the greatest chance of surviving the centuries, so be sure to mark them up and make them interesting to book critics of the mid-2500s!
Who would your Lord of the Rings spirit character be?: The Balrog. You go to sleep for five thousand years, then these dwarves wake you up, so you eat them, then these other punks come down makin’ a ruckus, and all you want is to go back to sleep, but this old man makes it so you can’t leave your own backdoor, dangit, so you have to fight him…for two days straight before you both die. Don’t poke the Balrog, y’all.
If you were building the perfect literary debate team, which three authors would you nominate for your team?: Virginia Woolf, because she don’t take no crap; Henry James, because he’s so long-winded; and Michel de Montaigne because he’s thought about everything and expressed it so well.
What’s the best point of view for narration?: I’d love to read a second person plural novel (y’all do this, y’all do that, y’all smell this…it would be like Dungeons and Dragons), but my favorite is first person. What is the “best” is hard to say, because the author should choose which perspective best fits with her style and the story. I really like the use of perspective in Faulkner, where the narration is happening after the fact, but the narrator refers to characters in reference to events that have happened after the time period of the story-telling.
Also meet Noah Arthurs, existentialist, Stanford University student, veteran PA, and a world champion blindfolded speed Rubik’s cube solver. Really, he can do that; watch this video, it’s mind-blowing.
Name: Narthurs (Noah Arthurs)
Life status: I’m a student at Stanford University, where I’m studying computers and humanities. I’ve been solving Rubik’s Cubes competitively for the last five years or so. I recently became ranked third in the world for blindfolded solving, which is my specialty.
Relationships to Great Books: Stanford Program Assistant in 2015 and 2016.
Nerdy fun fact: Hermann Rorschach, early 20th century psychoanalyst, used ink blots to create a series of pictures of my parents fighting.
Nerdiest attribute: You will never find me without a Rubik’s Cube.
Favorite book: Tie between Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Lonesome Dove, Jesus’ Son, and To the Lighthouse.
Currently reading: Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
Foreign/dead/fictional languages spoken: Latin, Ancient Greek
Favorite word: Yesteryear
Least favorite word: Irregardless
First fictional crush: Hermione, just like everyone else ever.
Which author would you want to write your story?: Definitely Larry McMurtry. I would get to be a cowboy.
Can the movie ever be better than the book?: Why not? People who make movies just tend to choose good books, so they rarely win. If they made movies out of bad books, the movies could be better.
Hardcover or paperback?: Hardcover always looks nice on a shelf. Shout out to well-formatted Kindle editions though ❤
Who would your Lord of the Rings spirit character be?: Pippin
If you were building the perfect literary debate team, which three authors would you nominate for your team?: Joseph Heller, David Foster Wallace, Mark Twain
What’s the best point of view for narration?: Always first person. Nothing like climbing right inside a character’s head.