Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"The Boy Next Door" Made The Dumbest Book Blunder Ever

(Jennifer Lopez/Universal Pictures)
Wow, there is a real shortage of English literacy in this world. The best evidence came recently from The Boy Next Door, the Jennifer Lopez thriller about a teacher who has an affair with her student. I haven't seen it, but apparently in one scene, Lopez's character is given a "first edition" of The Iliad.

NPR put it best when they said this was like saying you had a "first edition" of the Bible. The Iliad is an ancient Greek poem written by Homer that dates back to the eighth century B.C. when it was written on scrolls, but was first distributed by oral tradition. The oldest known copy is the Venetus A, a document from the tenth century AD stored in a medieval library in Venice, where it has to be protected from sunlight and even moisture from people's breath. And even that isn't a first edition. So it's unlikely that Jennifer Lopez is getting one of the originals.

It would have been better if she had said what she received was a first edition English translation of The Iliad. There are still some of those around, some of which are ridiculously valuable. One copy of Alexander Pope's translation went for $3,412. Only a complete moron would sell that for a dollar at a garage sale, but that's not to say it couldn't happen.

But this interpretation still doesn't get J-Lo off the hook, because that is not a first edition translation Lopez is holding in this scene. According to an article by The James Rovira Literary Agency, the book used is a nineteenth-century edition of Homer’s Iliad published by Thomas J. Crowell & Co. It's not a first edition, and it's not that valuable.

Yet the scene apparently fooled some people. Online bookseller Abe Books reported that the week after the movie's release, "first edition Iliad" was their number one searched-for book. Maybe people thought it was a nice looking book. Or maybe they were just doing their own fact checking.

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