An English Professor Explains the Appeal of WWE Wrestling

Earlier this year I taught T.S. Eliot’s poetry to my college students in the morning and attended WWE’s Monday Night Raw that night. I enjoyed both. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of WWE wrestling, but my 12-year-old daughter loves it, and I have taken her to some of the big WWE events in Los Angeles and San Diego, including Summer Slam and several Monday Night Raw shows. I have also gone with her to meet some many of the WWE superstars, including her favorite wrestler, John Cena, at special access events before the shows.

I am writing not as a fan defending the WWE, but as an interested outsider trying to explain certain aspects of its appeal. I’m writing more for people who don’t like WWE than for people who do. Fans don’t think WWE needs any defense.

The most common criticism of WWE wrestling that I hear from its detractors is Continue reading

Why I Don’t Watch Movies Based on Books I Care About

I have never seen The Lord of the Rings movies and probably never will. Whenever I have mentioned this to anyone, the most common response is, “But they’re so good.”

The fact that they’re good makes me want to see them even less.

Why?

I read the books many years ago, and the experience was so powerful that I walked around for days only partially aware of my own reality. Scenes from those novels played in my mind almost as vividly as my own real memories. I don’t want anyone else’s scenes to replace the ones in my head, any more than I would want someone’s film adaptation of my childhood to replace memories of my actual childhood.

That’s why I have stopped going to movies made of books that are really important to me. Doing so has usually led to disappointment. The worst examples are movies made from the books of Ernest Hemingway, who is an important writer to me. I have never seen a satisfying movie based on one of Hemingway’s better books. The better the book, the worse the movie. If I had never read the books, maybe I could have enjoyed some of those movies, but I regret seeing every one of them.

I watched the Robert Redford version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby long before I had adopted this practice of avoiding such films. It is a decent and enjoyable movie, but now I can never read Gatsby without picturing Continue reading

Why Bible Writers Would Have a Hard Time Finding a Publisher Today

It is often said that the Bible is the all-time bestselling book, but it achieved that status in a much earlier publishing era. What would happen if the Bible were submitted as a new book to a publisher today? I imagined how an editor trained in today’s publishing realities might respond to it:

Dear Writer:

I have read your manuscript that you are calling “The Bible,” and I wanted to offer you a little feedback before I inform you of our decision about whether to publish. I admit that I didn’t read all of it, and I frankly doubt that most of your readers would either. I mean, it’s looo-o-ong. Do you know the attention span of the average reader today? Will anyone have the patience for this book?

Not only is it long, but the subject matter is rather diffuse, to say the least. This book has poetry, history, biography, theology, prophecy, parables, hymns, proverbs, and probably a few other genres I’m forgetting. Doesn’t that seem a bit—overwhelming? Who is your audience?

Not to nitpick, but I also have a little trouble understanding your organizational structure. For instance, do you really want to put that hymn book right there in the middle? 150 songs? And those sections you call Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Aren’t those a little repetitive? Have you thought of just combining those into one?

I don’t mean to discourage you, but I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few readers are offended by this book. It can be a little polarizing. It’s so violent, for one thing. Stonings, crucifixions, wars, a flood, a woman turned into a pillar of salt. For goodness sake, children may read this! And what about that story where the woman drives the tent peg through the man’s temple Continue reading