With us today is Jack Murnighan--editor-at-large for Nerve.com (perhaps known best for its ultra-hip online personals section); author of a new book called BEOWULF ON THE BEACH: WHAT TO LOVE AND WHAT TO SKIP IN LITERATURE'S 50 GREATEST HITS; and, last but not least, a primo flirt.
To mark the publication of BEOWULF ON THE BEACH--a great summer read about how classic literature, from Homer's epics to Jane Austen's novels, can make our lives more enjoyable--I profiled Jack for The Daily Beast. After that, he gamely agreed to do an extra interview with me--which follows below--about how we can use books as flirtation devices.
BOOK COVERS THAT WILL AROUSE THE ATTENTION OF MEMBERS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX
ME: Are there books that are more likely than others to make a guy start talking to a woman in the coffee shop?
JACK: Like a suggestive skirt, a suggestive novel, such as Nabakov's LOLITA-- or a book with a suggestive title and cover, like another book I wrote called THE NAUGHTY BITS--will send a signal. (Whether or not you want to send that particular signal is up to you.)
Also, if a woman is reading a book by an author who is considered a "guy's writer"--like Cormac McCarthy--that's likely to get her a lot more attention than if she were deep into PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Similarly, a woman reading James Joyce's ULYSESS or Proust's REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS PAST on the train would probably turn a few heads. (Incidentally, I wouldn't recommend hardcore Joyce-fans as boyfriends. They tend to show off their intelligence, rather than share it.)
*Finally, whether you're male or female, I think you can't go wrong if you've got a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE with you. Anyone who likes that book is going to be both playful and deep, smart and sensual.*
CHEAT SHEET: LINES FROM GREAT BOOKS THAT WILL HELP YOU FLIRT
ME: Are there some great literary lines that a person can use to flirt?
JACK: This--from Boccacio's THE DECAMERON--could be useful: "No mortal who is without the experience of love can ever lay claim to true excellence."
Or you could mention that one of the most outstanding first lines in any novel comes from Garcia Marquez's LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: "The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."
ME: Yes! I love that beginning! During my first conversation with someone I had a tiny crush on--someone who is now, ten years later, one of my very dearest friends--he dropped that exact line on me! (Boy, it was hot. I was like, "Waiter! The two of us could use some drinks over here! Can you bring another six rounds, please?")
JACK: Smart move on your friend's part. Because clearly, I recommend seduction by Garcia Marquez.
HINTS ON HOW TO BE A BRILLIANT FLIRT AT A PARTY
ME: What chapters or chapters of BEOWULF ON THE BEACH in particular might be good to look at if I want to prepare to sound flirtatiously brilliant at a cocktail party?
JACK: After reading my book, you'd be able to make an argument that ANNA KARENINA is a much better adultery story than MADAME BOVARY--which would seduce me, though honestly I'm not sure how many other men it would work on!
Or you could mention that Chaucer's Wife of Bath is the most outrageous woman in all literature--having "swyved" five husbands to death, as she did.
ME: "Swyved"? Huh?
JACK: That's Middle English for "shagged."
THE HOTTEST THING ANYONE COULD EVER SAY ABOUT A BOOK
ME: All right, Jack, last one: What's the sexiest thing a woman could do (or say) when talking about a book, in your opinion?
JACK: To simply say she loves it, and then tell me why: that would do the trick. Very few (clothed) things are sexier than having a woman tell you what moves her and why.
All right, lovely readers. That's the scoop for today. If you have a crush on Jack after reading this, I understand. (He does have a girlfriend, though. Their relationship is open, however, so ... if you'd like to flirt with him, the choice is yours: check out his site: www.jackmurnighan.com . Maybe read his book first, before you send him an email, so you can quote his own brilliant observations back to him! Good luck! Keep me posted!)