“(Professor Emerson enters the room, and upon seeing Julie, immediately takes her hand)
Prof. Emerson: Hello, Julie. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
Julie: (trying very hard to maintain eye contact but wanting desperately to visually take in the professor from head to toe) Thank you, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. Since you are a man that doesn’t beat around the bush, I hope you don’t mind us starting with a bang? (grins teasingly while directing the Professor to a chair across from hers. He sits smiling)
What do you think about having so many female fans?
Prof. Emerson: (scratches his chin) I have fans? I’ve always had my share of female admirers. (he grins slowly) Of course, they admire me for a specific reason. I’ll leave it to you to guess why. (winks)
Julie: (shifts, recrosses legs, laughs lightly, no guesses needed) What is your biggest fear? (thankful her voice sounds normal)
Prof. Emerson: (chuckling) I see you softened me up with the first question. Like most people, I worry about my own mortality. I know I won’t live forever and there are many things I want to do. (He stares at his hands, a troubled look on his face) I worry about losing that which I love most …
Julie: (sensing that may have been too heavy a question so soon decides to lighten the moment) What makes you laugh out loud?
Prof. Emerson: Monty Python. Have you seen “The Dead Parrot Sketch”?
Julie: (slightly surprised) No, I haven’t, but I will look it up on youtube later since you recommend it. I did enjoy The Search for the Holy Grail though. (pausing and looking thoughtful) This may get a bit personal, if so feel free to not answer. (smiling and starting to feel more at ease around the professor)
When and where were you the happiest?
Prof. Emerson: When I met Beatrice, of course. Nothing in my life comes close to the happiness I experienced at that moment. Meeting her changed my life.
Julie: (nods in understanding) What then is your greatest regret?
Prof. Emerson: (He frowns) Their name is Legion, for they are many.
Julie: (not wanting to shift the mood to the dark side again decides to accept that and move on) To appease those female fans I referred to earlier, what is the quality you most like in a woman?
Prof. Emerson: (laughing) Do I have to choose just one? Let me see. (His eyes glint mischievously as he leans forward in his chair) Modesty. It’s far more erotic for a woman to be covered rather than naked, for the hiddenness tantalizes the imagination… and it makes the – ah – unwrapping so much more enjoyable, for both partners. Don’t you agree?
Julie: (stunned into a moment of silence not knowing if the professor is teasing taking note of her black modest dress she purposely wore for this interview. Clearing her throat…) What do you most value in your friends?
Prof. Emerson: Loyalty and truth.
Julie: (gives a crooked grin and a slight nod in his direction) Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Prof. Emerson: Hector, from Homer’s Iliad. I know that’s cheating, since he was a historical figure. If we were going to be strict about it, I’d say Beowulf. “Beowulf bode in the burg of the Scyldings, leader beloved, and long he ruled in fame with all folk, since his father had gone away from the world, till awoke an heir…”
Julie: (having no intelligent response presses on) What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Prof. Emerson: Ah, that’s a good question.
Julie: (YES! Feeling intelligent again.)
Prof. Emerson: (He stares into space for a moment, thinking) I used to think it was chastity, but I’ve undergone a change of heart. So I’d choose patience.
Julie: (Damn! but still puffed up from the previous praise) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Prof. Emerson: I’d give up my pride. Pride is the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins, you know. I suppose if I were to rid myself of only one sin that should be it. It’s the sin that fell the angels. Dante buries the prideful in the very pit of Hell.
Julie: (smiling, the words not lost on her, really begins to like the professor besides for his physical attributes) What is your motto?
Prof. Emerson: It’s a line from Dante’s La Vita Nuova: “For what virtue does this heart own so much delight?”
Julie: (setting her pen on top of her notepad, regretting the inevitable end of the interview, looks directly into the professor’s eyes and smiles) Thank you Professor. It has been a pleasure.
Prof. Emerson: And I can say, without question that it’s been a delight to be with you, Julie. Thank you for the invitation.”
With thanks to Julie and her associates at her book review website. If you’re looking for book reviews, you should take a look at her site.
All the best and thanks for reading,
“Oxford Gladiator” by Professor Gabriel O. Emerson, Associate Professor of Italian Studies, University of Toronto
I am not a man who makes decisions lightly. But when I want something, I pursue it relentlessly. If a woman catches my eye, I won’t rest until we’ve managed to press our bodies together and she’s panting my name. And I never back down from a challenge.
My interest in these two poets led quite naturally to an interest in the customs of ancient Rome, especially the lives of the gladiators.
Gladiatorial contests straddled the space between public entertainment and religious sacrifice. On the one hand, Romans enjoyed the spectacle staged combat provided. On the other, the contests provided plenty of bloodshed and death to feed the hunger of the city gods. One could view the loser in such a match as providing a human sacrifice to the gods of Rome.
My interest in gladiators took a somewhat unexpected turn one evening when I was accosted by a group of loud, drunken Christ Church students. I was walking from the Bodleian Library to my room at Magdalen, carrying a book on gladiators, when I bumped into someone. He pushed me, cursing loudly. I called him a Neanderthal and shoved him back.
Catching sight of the book I was carrying, the Neanderthal, (who I will now call “Brutus”), challenged me to fight him like a gladiator. I was shocked that such a behemoth was literate, let alone able to string together a complete sentence.
I told him to name the time and place.
That’s how I found myself on the meadow of Christ Church College just after dawn, holding a sword that Brutus and his friends had conveniently “borrowed” from one of the suits of armour owned by the college. They’d also procured a couple of breastplates and two shields. I fastened the breastplate to my chest but spurned the shield. The broadsword weighed at least a kilo and I would need both hands to wield it properly.
Brutus was a mountain of a man, tall and wide. He was easily a head taller than my own six feet, two inches and outweighed me by about a hundred pounds. He also had an overabundance of facial and body hair, which gave him a bear like appearance. He looked like someone who could have fought with the Germanic tribes against the Romans, centuries earlier.
As we prepared to do battle, a rag tag group of students gathered. I was the only sober one among them until a theology student was untimely ripped from his bed and told that he would act as referee. (Poor chap)
“Right,” he said, wiping the sleep from his eyes. “The warrior who draws first blood wins. Shake hands, gentlemen.”
Brutus crushed my hand with his meaty paw, fixing me with a severe eye. He winked before shoving me backward.
I swore an oath as I stumbled, struggling to regain my footing. With an incoherent cry, he rushed me, swinging his sword at my head. I dodged, then pivoted behind him and struck his kidney with the flat of my sword.
With a roar, he grabbed his back, flailing wildly. I bobbed once again, plowing my foot into his knee.
He threw an elbow, which glanced off my jaw. I ran my tongue over my teeth to make sure they were all intact before spitting out blood.
Brutus grinned treacherously, raising his sword. The blade whistled through the air before the clash of metal against metal rang in my ears. The impact of our swords jarred my arm all the way to my shoulder. I could feel my entire body shudder, rattling my teeth.
I withdrew and swiped at his midsection, scraping across his breastplate. But I was wildly off balance. He swung at my side, striking the place where the breastplate ended, and I fell to my knees. I curled inward in pain.
Brutus stood over me, slightly winded, before lifting his sword.
“Et tu, Brute?” I whispered, before tackling his knees.
The giant fell like a great oak tree, cut down in his prime. I stumbled to my feet, clutching my sword.
As the last pinks and greys of dawn gave way to a pale blue sky, I pressed a knee to his chest and with the tip of my sword drew blood just beneath his left ear.
Breathing heavily and sweating profusely, I removed my breastplate, stabbing my sword into the dewy grass. My opponent groaned and pressed a hand to his neck.
The crowd was silent. They stood aside as I passed through them, walking the slow steps of the victorious but battered warrior.
“Who was that?” Someone asked, pointing at me.
I turned around.
“Gabriel Emerson, president of the fencing club.”
Enjoy your day everyone. Thanks for reading,
As I mentioned in my previous post, I think that music can provide a background and context to scenes in a story.
“Lacrimosa” provides the music for “Gabriel’s Inferno”‘s video trailer, which you can watch here.
You can read the Latin and English lyrics to the Requiem here.
Here are the lyrics to “Lacrimosa”:
Day of Weeping,
On which will rise from ashes guilty man for judgment
So have mercy, oh Lord, on this man.
Compassionate Lord Jesus,
Grant them rest.
Within the context of the story, Julianne learns that Professor Emerson has been playing “Lacrimosa” over and over again in his office, much to the exasperation of his research assistant. (His research assistant later steals the CD in an effort to stop the madness).
If you wish, you can duplicate poor Paul’s experience by replaying the book trailer. Then you can try, like Julianne, to imagine what kind of psychological space Professor Emerson would have to be in in order to listen to that music continually …
I won’t spoil the story.
Although Mozart lived hundreds of years after Dante’s death, his Requiem is a perfect fit for the The Divine Comedy and for the tortured male lead, Gabriel Emerson.
If you’re interested on the background to Mozart’s composition, you can read a short article here.
For a longer article on the life and works of Mozart, click here.
I invite you to share your favourite piece of music from “Gabriel’s Inferno” in the comments below, or perhaps to suggest a piece that should have been included but wasn’t. A playlist and media player are featured here.
Thanks for reading (and listening),
If you haven’t read it yet, you can purchase an electronic version through the publisher for $4.99, $2 less than it’s offered on Amazon.com.