1. What is your favorite “academia” or “dark” book + movie?
Book: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, or The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I don’t read many campus novels, though, so I don’t have a lot of choices.
Movie: Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams, who is brilliant in this film. I also thought about the 2019 J.R.R. Tolkien biopic, Tolkien, but it’s not centered around school or Tolkien’s school experience, whereas Dead Poets Society is all about a group of kids at a school.
2. What dead poet would you like to have a drink with?
Lord Byron was called, “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. I’d get some absinthe and have a seat if he were in the room. Otherwise, for some less scandalous company, perhaps John Clare, John Keats, or Christina Rossetti
3. What is your favorite painting and/or sculpture?
Why would you do this to me? Only one? No. You’re getting a list.
- ‘Virgin of the Rocks‘ by Leonardo da Vinci
- ‘Lady with an Ermine‘ by Leonardo da Vinci
- ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes‘ by Artemesia Gentilleschi
- ‘Starry Night‘ by Vincent Van Gogh
- ‘Le Printemps‘ by William Adolphe Bouguereau
- ‘The Moon and the Stars‘ (series) by Alphonse Mucha
- ‘Daybreak‘ by Maxfield Parrish
- ‘Mystery and Melancholy of a Street‘ by Giorgio de Chirico
- ‘Christ of St. John of the Cross‘ by Salvador Dali
- ‘Empire of Light‘ by René Magritte
- ‘Yellow Band‘ by Mark Rothko
- ‘Cupid and Psyche‘ by Antonio Canova (sculpture)
- The Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum
There are plenty of others. I love work from the Italian Renaissance, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and Art Nouveau. Among others. And we haven’t even gotten into photography…
4. What is your favorite architectural marvel?
That I’ve been to? Probably Westminster Abbey or the Tower of London, both in London, UK.
Places I haven’t been to? Sainte Chappelle and Notre Dame in Paris, and Mont Saint Michel in France, the Florence Cathedral in Florence and San Marco in Venice, Italy; Neuchwanstein Castle in Germany; the Pyramids of Egypt; the city of Petra in Jordan, Angkor Wat in Cambodia. As well as basically all the Gothic cathedrals in Europe and most of the castles in England.
5. What Shakespeare play would you want to be the lead in?
I tried being on stage in high school theater, and I did not enjoy it. But I did like being the stage manager, so being the stage manager for productions of Hamlet or The Tempest wold be interesting.
6. How many languages do you speak and which language would you most like to learn?
I’m only fluent in English, but I can read French fairly well and I speak a little German. I would love to attain fluency in both of those. I’d also love to learn Irish and Icelandic.
7. What is your favorite quote (from poetry, prose, plays, etc.)?
Off the top of my head, I can think of two:
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
“And beneath Cornwall, beyond and beneath this whole realm of England, beneath the sodden marshes of Wales and the rough territory of the Scots border, there is another landscape; there is a buried empire, where he fears his commissioners cannot reach. Who will swear the hobs and boggarts who live in the hedges and hollow trees, and the wild men who hide in the woods? Who will swear the saints in their niches, and the spirits that cluster at holy wells rustling like fallen leaves, and the miscarried infants dug in to unconsecrated ground: all those unseen dead who hover in winter around forges and village hearths, trying to warm their bare bones? For they too are his countrymen: the generations of uncounted dead, breathing through the living, stealing their light from them, the bloodless ghosts of lord and knave, nun and whore, the ghosts of priest and friar who feed on living England, and suck the substance from the future.”
-Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
8. Which fictional character’s death is your ideal way to go?
I suppose I’d prefer to go like King Théoden in The Return of the King. Sure, he’s facing an endless horde of orcs and other enemies, but he went down fighting to save his people from an era of darkness. There are worse ways to go.
9. What university/college would you most like to attend?
I’d love to attend a few classes at Oxford in England. The age, the architecture, the history… Plus, the Bodleian Library is there. And Tolkien taught there. What’s not to adore about the place, or at least the idea of it?
10. What is your murder weapon or murder method of choice?
Blades and other weapons are messy and hard to hide evidence of, but if I had to make a choice I’d choose a stiletto. Otherwise, poison.
11. What mythology would you most like to a part of?
Norse mythology, of course. Who wouldn’t want to be a Valkyrie, or at least live in Scandinavia or Iceland and tell stories through the long dark of winter? Even having to put up with Loki wouldn’t be so annoying if you have a view like this:
12. If you had to do a PhD what would you choose to do it on?
Probably art history, particularly the art of the Italian Renaissance. Or the history of England’s Tudor Era. Or Anglo-Saxon history.
13. Which fictional character would you die for?
They’re fictional, so dying for a fictional character would be a bit ridiculous, but if I were somehow transported to one of the made-up worlds, I’d choose Middle-earth and would die for Frodo and Sam, because they’re the primary two who saved the world.
Rapid-Fire: Pick One
1. Leather bound or cloth bound books – Cloth bound. I’m trying to use fewer animal products.
2. Dog-earing pages or highlighting pages – Dog-earing, because you can slightly smooth it out. Highlighting is forever.
3. Sculptures or paintings – I mean, both. But if you made me choose, I’d go with paintings.
4. Piano or violin – Spotify likes to suggest ‘soft piano melodies’, which I hate. But if it would ever suggest, say, the Rach 2, I’d go with piano. But overall, I’d choose the violin.
5. Films or theater — Films, as the local theater scene is so-so. I prefer the theater when I travel, though, because why see a movie in London when you can see The Phantom of the Opera or Shakespearen plays live?
6. Poetry or prose – Prose.
7. Museums or bookshops – What kind of a choice is this? ugh… Well, bookshops, depending on what kind of museum we’re talking about.
8. Smell of books or smell of coffee/tea – Coffee/tea. I have a bad sense of smell, so that “old book smell” people talk about is lost on me.
9. Fountain pen or typewriter – Fountain pen. I have had to use a typewriter for schoolwork. It was awful.
10. New or used books – Used books. You can get a lot more books for the same amount of money.