tom clancy in latin?
September 17, 2008 12:26 AM   Subscribe

a friend tells me how a book collections speaks authors about the owner. jane austen = smart. tom clancy = not. i posed the question: what about tom clancy, in latin? now i'm trying to find a book to test the hypothesis.
posted by camdan to Society & Culture (38 answers total)
 
Only if it's your own translation.

Seriously, though, something like this?
posted by mr_roboto at 12:34 AM on September 17, 2008


i'm not sure what exactly "hey i translated this whole tom clancy novel...by myself!" would say to people.
posted by camdan at 12:40 AM on September 17, 2008


um, is Harry Potter in Latin a good equivalent? In 'similar items' you can see other novels that have been translated into latin as well.

I think you have a false dichotomy there however, my family bookshelves contain both authors.
posted by jacalata at 12:47 AM on September 17, 2008


It's not a single book in a collection that makes one seem "cultured". It's the entire collection, sadly. So having a latin tom clancy with a bunch of english tom clancys, not great. A latin tom clancy along with a latin H.Potter, various other latin translations, and other good books in latin? Better.

Also, how do you propose to test this? Asking people if your bookshelf makes you seem more erudite is going to work poorly. And will probably backfire.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:51 AM on September 17, 2008


Latin is a language, it doesn't transform material.
posted by apetpsychic at 12:52 AM on September 17, 2008 [9 favorites]


yes, i make no excuses for my friend saying tom clancy is "not smart", this is her comment, not mine. i know that harry potter or dan brown are more likely candidates since they have more universal appeal, but now i'm stuck on the idea of the tom clancy novel.
posted by camdan at 12:53 AM on September 17, 2008


What that means is a Tom Clany book in any language is a Tom Clancy book.
posted by apetpsychic at 12:54 AM on September 17, 2008


lemurrhea - to be honest, i don't plan on standing there and pointing at the latin clancy going "heh? heh?" and nudging my guest. honestly i plan to use this more as a one-off prank - say i don't see this person for awhile, then they stop by, conversation long forgotten. when i step out of the room for a minute, they peruse my collection, and there it is on the shelf - tom clancy in latin. kind of like a memory where's waldo or some obscure visual reference in the background of a simpson's episode.
posted by camdan at 1:02 AM on September 17, 2008


and i don't speak latin, so owning a bunch of latin novels would probably make me look like a retard.
posted by camdan at 1:04 AM on September 17, 2008


You might as well just get Tom Clancy in French, no? Otherwise, modern stuff in Latin is pretty much Harry Potter, Winnie The Pooh, Dr. Seuss, The Little Prince, and The Giving Tree.
posted by rhizome at 1:49 AM on September 17, 2008


yes i think you're right, rhizome - it doesn't look like tom clancy in latin is going to happen. french it is.
posted by camdan at 1:50 AM on September 17, 2008


a friend tells me how a book collections speaks authors about the owner.

I assume you mean "speaks volumes" about the owner.

jane austen = smart. tom clancy = not.

That's one point of view.

i posed the question: what about tom clancy, in latin? now i'm trying to find a book to test the hypothesis.

Yes, but the test is not so much what she reads, but why she reads. I am personally not particularly fond of Hemmingway, but as his short, crisp sentences translate well into other languages, you will find quite a few of his novels on my shelf. Anyone who looks at my shelf and concludes something about me from the simple fact that "he reads Hemmingway" would be wrong.
posted by three blind mice at 2:38 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I missed the point, sorry...
posted by apetpsychic at 2:54 AM on September 17, 2008


I'd argue that just because there's Jane Austen on the shelves, does not mean the reader is smart. And I'm in the minority in this, but will say also that it's difficult for me to classify Austen as erudite or even classic literature. To me, her novels are the early 19th century versions of trashy Harlequin romance novels.

And don't get me started on the "genius that is Henry James". Cough cough, hack, hack...
posted by mrbarrett.com at 4:15 AM on September 17, 2008


Thats actually one of my favorite things to do when visiting someones house is to peruse their bookshelves. Not so much because I love books (which I do!), but because I believe getting an overall sense of their collection might give me some insights about what kind of person they are. I dont look for subjects specifically (noticing all the Harry Potter books wouldnt catch my eye), but moreso I look for the obscure "one-offs" like if they have the entire collection of Harry Potter but right next to that have a single book: "Photographic history of japanese body massage". I'd want to know about that one. My goal isnt to attempt determining how smart they are.. its more about learning something about them and having more to converse about. On occasion I've had people seem somewhat offended that I'll wander quietly around their house meticulously observing various nicknacks :) but I usually give off a pretty harmless vibe (which they realize once I start asking a million questions about them and their stuff) (feels really odd re-reading what I just typed knowing I grew up such a introvert. ;P
posted by jmnugent at 4:17 AM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


How about Shakespeare's Hamlet in Klingon?

I'd guess I've read thousands of books in my life, but my collection speaks very little about me. It's mostly the books that were gifted to me that I'm reluctant to regift or sell, and those books that I didn't like much, can't sell but haven't figured out who to gift to as the friends of the library won't take them. If I'd pared the shelves down to the books I mostly cared to keep I'd be left with reference books, but that would probably imply to visitors that I read less than I do. The books that I've actually read cover to cover say a little bit about me, but the tiny fraction that I've re-read or recommended to friends say the most.

I used to play the game of judging people by their book tastes, but then I realized that we often see the same books from radically different viewpoints. Austen as romance may be as insipid as the earlier commenter claimed, but as a comedy of manners it is a bit more sophisticated. One of my favorite authors is Patrick O'Brian, and I've half-jokingly referred to him as Jane Austen crossed with Tom Clancy in the age of sail.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:47 AM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe: Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit: How the Grinch Stole Christmas in Latin.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:57 AM on September 17, 2008


brothercaine - i also read patrick o'brian, and never made that connection. i just recently, in fact, traded in my piecemeal collection of used aubrey/maturin paperbacks for the complete hardcover series. i'll have to flank it with austen/clancy and see if anyone says anything.
posted by camdan at 5:07 AM on September 17, 2008


I think it's flawed to say you can judge a person's intelligence merely by the books they own. There are too many reasons for reading, and too many kinds of books for different moods or whims, to be so rigid about it. Plenty -- in fact, I would say most -- intelligent people sometimes read books they read that they know aren't good, or at the very least teach them nothing, for plenty of reasons. Sometimes people aren't in the mood for something "thinky." Sometimes they'll read something that is overall "bad" because they recognize the one thing the author did decently and that's either what they care most about, or it's just fascinating to them. Sometimes they read "bad" books for a laugh. Creative people also tend to find a way to get something out of a bad book, even if it's not what the author intended.

And besides, some classics are overrated, or the things that are good about them aren't something that someone personally likes. The Hemingway "short sentence" thing mentioned above is a good example of this. Other examples: some classics writers write without much emotion, and I don't like books like that. I can't stand overwrought Victorian descriptions. Gothic novels almost always strike me as melodramatic and unrealistic. I agree with the unfavorable assessment of Jane Austen above, though others won't. There's things J.K. Rowling did well in the Harry Potter books that requires intelligence to be able to spot. And so on.

Just because something is old doesn't mean it's suddenly catapulted into this lauded space where it's now objectively good, free from the subjectivity of newer art. It's still going to depend on the personality of the reader and what's important to them, and not every "thinky" book appeals to every "thinky" person.

To say it's as simple as, essentially "reads classics=smart" is just ridiculous.
posted by Nattie at 5:12 AM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Smart people might hide the Tom Clancy books when company comes over. Or, just check them out from the library for pleasure reading.

The books on display in the living room could be a different set than all books one has read.

Winnie Ille Pu would actually speak highly of someone, I'd think.
posted by gimonca at 5:33 AM on September 17, 2008


the thing about tom clancy, and most writers of his ilk, its not that he's a crap writer - its just that he writes in a way to make it easy and enjoyable to read.

this isnt aimed to pass judgement on "harder to read books are better" - but more to point out that the popularity of these authors is down to their style, rather than their substance. i call it chewing gum for the eyes. you can read his wonderful description of a nuclear explosion that takes 6 pages - and not really know anything - but its easy to read and that makes it enjoyable.

arguably, a better writer would tackle the subject in a less glamorous fashion and make it much harder to comprehend, but in fact you'd take something out of it more than just "jack ryan did a bunch of cool shit".
posted by dnc at 5:46 AM on September 17, 2008


If the only thing you know about someone's bookshelf is that there's a Latin translation of a Tom Clancy book on it, I think the most you could conclude is that the person had, at some point, studied Latin.
posted by box at 5:55 AM on September 17, 2008


But the poster isn't really asking if his or her friend's opinion is correct, is s/he? S/he'd just love to get a Tom Clancy book translated to Latin, if possible, and put it on the bookshelf as a sort of joke on the friend... which would be pretty damn funny.

I don't think you're going to find that, camdan, but it would be great if you could. If I were you, I'd go with the Harry Potter in Latin, rather than the Clancy in French.
posted by taz at 5:56 AM on September 17, 2008


get a Tom Clancy book translated to Latin

Sorry, I meant get a Tom Clancy book that was in Latin translation - not have one translated.
posted by taz at 5:57 AM on September 17, 2008


Judging someone based on what lines their bookshelves is filled with problems for all the reasons stated above. But I do confess that if I dated someone with a lot of self help books with titles such as, "Getting over hating women" or "Mama never loved me" would cause me to hesitate. But let's be real honest it is the medicine cabinet that is the real way to determine things about your date or companion. Meds? What kind of meds? Pink razors? Femenine hygiene products but no female roommates? Oh yes, the bathroom is where all the real judging happens.
posted by jadepearl at 6:35 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your friend is a snob.

DTMFA
posted by adamdschneider at 6:45 AM on September 17, 2008


The poster has clarified: to be honest, i don't plan on standing there and pointing at the latin clancy going "heh? heh?" and nudging my guest. honestly i plan to use this more as a one-off prank - say i don't see this person for awhile, then they stop by, conversation long forgotten. when i step out of the room for a minute, they peruse my collection, and there it is on the shelf - tom clancy in latin. kind of like a memory where's waldo or some obscure visual reference in the background of a simpson's episode

What he or she wants is a Clancy-in-Latin to perpetrate a long-term, sly joke on the friend, which wasn't clear in the original question, but was expounded in later comments.

It's not about the theory that you can read a person by what they have on the bookshelf.
posted by taz at 6:46 AM on September 17, 2008


You're right, taz. Worldcat doesn't list any Clancy titles in Latin, though there are a few in (Modern) Greek.
posted by box at 6:53 AM on September 17, 2008


Austen is practically chick-lit. Look, if we're going to make unrealistic sweeping generalizations based on some attribute of someone's life lets at least admit that reading non-fiction adds to ones smarts. Why would reading another fiction story help someone develop an intellect? Hey the protagonist got in trouble, figured out his problems, and in the end became victorious. Big deal.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:11 AM on September 17, 2008


Why not just read Cicero's De Officiis? In Latin?
posted by billtron at 7:13 AM on September 17, 2008


If this is really just for a prank and the "look" of the thing, why not have a graphic designer friend make a book jacket for you that emulates a Clancy cover with Latin on it? Bonus points if you can make the Latin coherent to anyone who has studied it.
posted by bristolcat at 7:58 AM on September 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think we're talking about taste not intelligence. The most intelligent person I know reads what I consider to be garbage.
posted by canoehead at 8:17 AM on September 17, 2008


Taste is a classist concept. Then the solution would be to examine what people of that class are reading and carefully replicating their bookshelves in your own home. This is an old tactic.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2008


Some "research" on the topic.
posted by 517 at 9:18 AM on September 17, 2008


If this is really just for a prank and the "look" of the thing, why not have a graphic designer friend make a book jacket for you that emulates a Clancy cover with Latin on it?

This is a brilliant suggestion, and one of the few actual answers in the thread. Most of you are turning the thread into pure chatfilter, ignoring the actual question because you feel like yammering about taste. Quit it, because I don't want to wear out my flagging finger.
posted by languagehat at 9:52 AM on September 17, 2008


> Austen is practically chick-lit.

And The Odyssey is practically heroic adventure. I still prefer it to The Ichorous Stones of Grargh Nargplugh trilogy.

Listen, this isn't about being erudite or even faking erudition. It's about layering the wall with books that don't look like drivel.

The simple and cheap way to achieve the OP's goal of impressing guests is to snap up a bunch of paperbacks of any variety and wrap their own covers around them. Or else wait until the local college bookstore puts out their table full of obsolete class texts. Any guest who cares enough to pick up A Comparative Survey of the Translations of Squalid Peasant Villages Censuses In Wallonia From 1348-1392 will betray more about themselves than they'll learn about you.
posted by ardgedee at 10:02 AM on September 17, 2008


Austen is practically chick-lit.

seriously? you would say this? how many chick-lit titles do you know with as universal appeal and that has endured for over two centuries?
posted by violetk at 5:02 PM on September 17, 2008


I tend to give away books I've read, so the shelves in my house are full of books I want to read. . . I guess that says I _want_ to read smarty books?
posted by jamesstegall at 12:33 AM on September 18, 2008


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