Jeremy Northam: Just Call Him the “Intellectualizer”

11 Sep

A bit of silliness for the unofficial end of summer from yours truly, LauraP

So, get me. I’m reading Henry James! Last weekend was Labor Day Weekend, the American holiday that signals the end of summer—but was I reading a romance or a thriller or some other summer brain candy-type book? No. I was making my way through the carefully constructed complex and compound sentences of James’ The Aspern Papers.

Henry James? That's a coincidence...

Being a regular reader of this blog, if I say at this point that I have a confession to make, you can probably guess what it is. I wasn’t actually reading The Aspern Papers. Jeremy Northam was doing the reading and I was just following along in my copy of the novella. Gill, the founder of the Jer Blog who kindly lets me contribute my thoughts here, had been waxing rhapsodic to me for a few weeks about Jeremy’s reading of Henry James’ work. Her recent post about it may have sent you dashing off to SilkSoundbooks for your own copy of Jeremy’s Aspern Papers.

But Labor Day, and its associations of beaches and cookouts and one last grasp at fun before we go back to the Everyday Grind, juxtaposed with reading one of the most challenging writers in the English language, got me thinking. How many intellectual pursuits have I undertaken because the name Jeremy Northam was attached to it in some way?

I remembered a thread at Jeremy Northam Chat a while back where we were discussing how his involvement in a project has led us to expand our knowledge of a related subject—the time period one of his movies was set in, a literary work he did an audio version of, an historical figure he played. As I started to make a list of them all, I noticed he’s been the motivation behind quite a few of my more “cerebral” activities in recent years. More than I realized.

Now, I’m a fairly intelligent, well-educated person. I read a great deal—and not just romances and thrillers! I do tackle intellectual projects of my own volition. For example, my interest in gardening with native plants has led me to read works on botany, entomology and ecology. I’ve amassed quite a lot of knowledge about the native plants of my region and the benefits of using those natives instead of exotic imported plants in gardens.

But that’s only one puny thing on my side of the scale; the other side of the scale is completely overbalanced by a heap of Jeremy-motivated items. And here I thought I was an intellectual. Turns out it was Jeremy all along. The guy’s a regular one-man Enlightenment! I’ve taken to calling him my “Intellectualizer.”

Intellectualizer? I like it!

So, here are the mind-improving pursuits I’ve embarked on in the name of Northam:

Some are subjects I was already interested in, where Jeremy came along and spurred me to further reading. I was already a Jane Austenite when the movie Emma and his Mr. Knightley changed my life forever and I’d read Possession before his R.H. Ash swept me off my feet. I’d visited Brideshead Revisited and was already well versed in the Romantic poets when Jeremy’s superlative readings made me feel I’d only skimmed the surface of Waugh’s novel or Keats’ and Shelley’s poetic works.

As RH Ash in Possession

Others are things only Jeremy could tempt me to try. I’d dismissed Graham Greene after agonizing over The Power and the Glory in high school, so only rave reviews of his audiobook by some of you got me to listen to Our Man in Havana. (What an absolute delight that is, too. Don’t miss it!) A similar traumatic experience with W. Somerset Maugham and Of Human Bondage didn’t stop me from seeking out The Moon and Sixpence at the mere mention of Jeremy’s name being attached to a film version of the novel. That project seems to have died and gone to Development Limbo, but I enjoyed reading the book and trying to decide which character he would have played.

With Jeremy’s charming help, I have gamely tackled writers with the reputation for being inaccessible. The aforementioned Mr. James’ Golden Bowl was easier to plow through with Prince Amerigo to lead the way, and a CD of breathtaking readings brought to life the unique rhythms and vocabulary of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry for me. There do seem to be limitations to Jeremy’s power, I’m sorry to say. After two tries I still haven’t been able to get through Tristram Shandy. I’m so ashamed. Can you forgive me, Jer?

As Sir Thomas More in The Tudors

Jeremy’s gifted portrayals of Sir Thomas More in The Tudors and Rev. John Innes in Creation sent me scurrying to the library for biographies of More and Charles Darwin to learn more about these fascinating men. By the way, I love the confession by Paul Bettany, who played Darwin in Creation, that he read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species mostly because he knew interviewers on the movie’s press tour would be sure to ask him if he had. Now there’s motivation for you!

And then there are the little bits of Jeremy-related information that cling to my brain as if superglued there. No, I don’t mean the man’s birthday or his shoe size; the former is common knowledge around here and the latter is largely irrelevant. I mean things like what Brugada Syndrome is. When a relative was diagnosed with Brugada this summer, I knew a bit about it because of the Golden Hour episode of Miami Medical. My father was all ready to tell me about this rare condition no one’s ever heard of. He was dumbfounded that I had heard of it. Thank you, Dr. Proctor.

And at a cookout this past weekend—I didn’t spend the whole time closeted away with Henry James—the subject of Scotland came up. One of my relatives was trying to describe the unique bunkers at St. Andrews golf course. I could help him out because I so adore Jeremy’s wicked Walter Hagen that I’ve seen (parts of) Bobby Jones: Strokes of Genius at least a dozen times. My family has decided that I know the weirdest collection of facts imaginable. I’m not about to tell them the common thread is a British actor born December 1, 1961.

In case you’re wondering, there IS one subject Jeremy won’t be motivating me to pursue. Math. I’m allergic to all higher forms of mathematics, a complete math idiot. You couldn’t get me to solve an algebraic equation for X if it were written on his bare chest. Well…maybe if he asked me nicely, I might give it a try. Wait a minute! What am I saying? If Jeremy Northam is standing in front of me shirtless, the very last thing I’m going to be thinking about is math!

After all, woman doesn’t live by intellect alone.

by LauraP

25 Responses to “Jeremy Northam: Just Call Him the “Intellectualizer””

  1. Mary September 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Dear Laura,
    a really intelligent essay . Because you are followers of Jeremy is good that you not only literary treasures in head, but also from the pretty man in the pictures dream. ( Sorry for english)

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks, Mary!

      Jeremy’s a triple threat, isn’t he? Mind, heart and body are all topnotch! 😉

  2. Robyn Wildman September 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    I find this very familiar! I’ve read the normal Emma, Possession, The Golden Bowl, Dean Spanley & Brideshead Revisited (some prior to Jeremy’s involvement). I made it through Tritram Shandy on the second try. His portrayal of Sir Thomas More inspired me to read Utopia. An article (from Time Out New York, I think) caused me to read The Aeneid, when it mentioned his reading it. I listen to Keith Jarrett because of another mention in an article. I love listening to him reading and might have missed exposure to Greene, Lewis or Orwell, without his audio books. I have purchased The Aspern Papers, and will listen after finishing the book I’m currently reading. Looking forward to what his next project will expose us to!

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

      I’m impressed, Robyn. Utopia AND Tristram Shandy!

      I didn’t include Thomas More’s most famous work on my list because I read it for a course in grad school–an entirely different motivation there. But maybe I should give TS another go?

      And the Aeneid? Now I’m really impressed! Of course, Mr. N. could probably read it in the original, classics scholar that he is…

      He’s a very gifted reader, poetry or prose. I look forward to his next audiobook almost as much as I do his next acting project!

      Thanks for your comment, Robyn. Glad to know I have company in my Jeremy-motivated pursuits.

  3. Ansie September 11, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    Thanks Laura for a great post! Yes, our Jeremy is such a smart guy! One more reason to love him! I’ve got Our Man in Havana home from the library this week and absolutely love JN’s interpretation of the book. It really is superb. He’s such a gifted individual – smart, sexy, musical, and a talented actor. I hope his next project is something he can really sink his teeth into.

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

      Thanks, Ansie!

      I adore his Our Man in Havana, too. The luncheon scene where Jim is supposed to give a talk is my favorite. How on Earth did JN keep all those accents and voices straight? It’s a complete tour de force of audiobook reading, if you ask me!

  4. henrysmummy2003 September 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Thank you so much Laura, this is a lovely post! I confess I join you as a numerical dunce that no amount of beautiful chest could improve! Jeremy has inspired me in so many ways as the teetering mound of Henry James’ works by my bed currently demonstrates! Who needs the Open University!

    • jules September 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

      Loved this post Laura – especially the comment about your relatives not knowing the source of all this eclectic knowledge!

      I can tick (check) most of the boxes you mention – but so far have stopped short of reading Utopia or On Origin of Species…but if we have to wait much longer for a new JN project I might find myself dipping into these works as well!

      • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

        Glad you liked it, Jules! Thanks for reading.

        I know what you mean about waiting to hear what’s next for JN. He’s got every right to take as long as he likes finding the perfect project, but it’s really hard to be patient!

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

      You are very welcome, Gill. It was a lot of fun to write!

      As far as math goes, my brother seems to have gotten all the ability there (he’s an accountant), while I got the language genes. I wonder how Jeremy is at math? We know he’s brilliant at every aspect of language!

  5. Rosamond Tifft September 12, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    Laura P. should continue to dip her pen in ink and write because she is wonderful at it. It was a delightful read and I recognize the syndrome, or should I say the University in which she has enrolled….the Jer U, and I’ve been there and am there now with one, dare I mention another icon’s name
    Dirk Bogarde. Funny, some of the books she did not at first cotten to I have
    Greene, Maugham, James, but I have followed the path of my beloved Dirk
    to some pretty odd and brilliant places, not all at the same time, but at different times and places….You write well and charmingly and I shall look for you often here. Here is a very good and nice place to visit, share, grow. Many Thanks, Roe Tifft, American, so I know the Labor Day beat by beat….

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

      The Jer U! I love that, Roe.

      Thanks for your very kind words about my post. Glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Martina September 12, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Laura, this is great and wonderful written, too. Thank you very much. Some of my semi-knowledge also comes from to much influence by Jeremy Northam and his work (and preferences). So this is only an repetition and extension of the list of my predecessors in commentig : I´ve read every book and author of which Jeremy has done audio-works , even John Steinbeck`s “The Grapes of Wrath” (fantastic) because he mentioned in an article (true or not true) that it was a favorite book of his youth! In Thomas More I was interested before, but after “The Tudors” I also struggled my way through “Utopia”, became interested in Gerard Manley Hopkins and, yes, found access to Jazz with Pianist Keith Jarrett. In my case (I´m a German) I`m regularly baffling the teacher of our English course with an unusual vocabulary, picked up by watching movies with .Jeremy Northam, that`s great fun! I know now who Heinrich Dreser was (Sebastian Faulks) or looked up the Boer War (Dean Spanley) and Tannenberg (Graham Green) in an encyclopaedia. (Alas, to remember is sometimes the problem)
    Of Course there are many ways to widen ones horizont, but why not be guided by an intelligent, kind and good-minded person? You always need a hint, were to start and you`ll soon recognize if you`re on the right track, won`t you?

    • Martina September 12, 2010 at 11:15 am #

      Please excuse the spelling mistakes and the awful grammar! As far as Jeremy is concerned I´m always a bit hasty.

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

      That’s a very good point, Martina. Why NOT be guided by an intelligent, kind and good-minded person? Jeremy’s varied collection of projects is an excellent place to start–as we all have indeed recognized!

      Please don’t aplogize for your English! I couldn’t even BEGIN to write to you in German! And it is doubly impressive that you’ve tackled all these Jeremy projects when his native language is not your own!

      And I’d love to be in your English class when you use one of your Jeremy vocabulary words! Your teacher’s reaction would probably be very funny to see. 🙂

  7. Gayle Cooley September 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    Delightful post Laura!! And I am so with you on both Tristam Shandy, and Math. Though I might give the Math a try if it WAS written on his chest and he was standing in front of me 🙂

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

      Thanks, Gayle.

      I was trying to think of a circumstance under which Jeremy might get me to do math and THAT is what popped into my mind! Glad to know it sounds reasonable to another unmathmatical Jeremy fan. 😉

  8. henrysmummy2003 September 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    It’s interesting…I don’t think I would go off and do/listen to something necessarily just because I knew Jeremy liked it. Music, for example. Though it was fascinating to hear Jeremy talking about his tastes in music on the recent Private Passions, he and I don’t have terribly similar tastes (the Bach piano he chose sounds like a cat running up and down a keyboard to me, always has…but then I am not a pianist and possibly have no taste!!) and I didn’t find myself seeking out his choices particularly (though had he chosen something I loved and didn’t know about then I guess I would have dashed to iTunes!). But certainly the audiobooks have been a wonderful intro to new books for me, and I have found myself reading screenplays and play scripts for pleasure (as well as rambling on at this blog site ad nauseum, for which the poor man is partly responsible, though entirely unintentionally!!). Not only is Jeremy a great inspirer, but you ladies, to a fault, have made great fellow students in the University of Jeremy!

  9. LauraP September 12, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    I know what you mean about JN’s musical taste, Gill. The music that inspires someone is such a personal thing, so I guess I didn’t expect his and my tastes to overlap very much.

    I didn’t get to hear the Private Passions session, but I did see the list of his selections. I did seek out a few of the pieces he picked out of curiosity. I was especially interested in what he said about the Schubert: that he thought it was a perfect balance of emotion and reason, or something to that effect. I found that fascinating.

    • LauraP September 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

      What I didn’t say in my post is that of all the things I’ve learned due to Jeremy’s influence, the very best is what lovely people my fellow Jeremyized Ones are!

      He’s very lucky to have such intelligent, funny, kind and considerate fans! And I feel very lucky to have “met” you all through him. 🙂

  10. Gayle Cooley September 13, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    You are a dear one Laura! I feel the same. The best part is getting to know others who appreciate this talented man’s work!

  11. henrysmummy2003 September 13, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Agree, Gayle! As you said yourself, Laura, it’s the intelligence, dignity, integrity and goodly dollop of wit and charm that the man himself possesses that attracts all the best people: I too feel very blessed to have met you and thank you all and especially Jeremy for allowing me to get to know you. xxx

  12. Jennythenipper September 17, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Every Time I pass St. Thomas More church in St. Paul, I think of Jer. Is that wrong?

    • henrysmummy2003 September 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

      Never wrong to think of Jeremy in my book!

      • LauraP September 21, 2010 at 12:25 am #

        Right you are, Gill! It’s never wrong to thing of Jeremy. 🙂

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