“The Boy Next Door” is billed as an erotic thriller, and now some of its viewers are getting all steamy with a literary classic.
The movie stars Jennifer Lopez as Claire Peterson, a nerdy-hottie high school English teacher who has a one-night stand with her young neighbor Noah (Ryan Guzman). He also takes her class at school, but the film sidesteps the creepiness factor with a plot device that conveniently makes him nearly 20 years old. Relief! During their flirtation, Noah gives Claire a supposed first edition of “The Iliad,” with a striking, illustrated cover. She doesn’t accept it at first, but he insists, saying he got it for “a buck at a garage sale.”
And apparently, in some unlikely Venn diagram of cultural appreciation, there is overlap between Greek mythology buffs and J-Lo fans. Since the movie’s release Jan. 23 through early this week, “The Iliad” was the most-searched item on the used and rare books clearinghouse AbeBooks.com, according to merchandising manager Richard Davies.
People aren’t buying up copies of Homer as much as they are looking for this particular version of it, he said, or are simply looking into it. (“To Kill a Mockingbird” is currently the top seller at AbeBooks, which was acquired by Amazon in 2008.) And though there has been plenty of mockery about a “first edition” of a 3,000-year-old epic poem first handed down through oral tradition, the script may not be entirely off, Davies said in a telephone interview. “Technically, the first edition of ‘The Iliad’ is the first time someone wrote it down on a scroll,” he said. “That’s not going to exist. But a famous work like ‘The Iliad’ can be published many, many times. You can have an American first edition, a U.K. first edition, an Australian first edition.”
The Los Angeles Times did some sleuthing about the physical book used in the movie. “It is in fact an actual copy of the ‘Iliad’ and not a fabricated prop,” Annie Brandt, the propmaster for “The Boy Next Door,” told the Times’ Carolyn Kellogg. The book that propels J-Lo’s fatal attraction is an 1884 edition, translated by Alexander Pope, and bound by Donohue and Henneberry of Chicago, Kellogg reports.
Alas, as of Thursday afternoon, “The Iliad” has dropped down to ninth place among AbeBooks.com’s most-searched works. But the notion of a first edition selling for $1 “indeed made me smile,” Davies said. A first edition of the book’s first English-language translation would likely start at $3,000, Davies estimated, and “I certainly wouldn’t be giving that book to my girlfriend if I found it at a garage sale.”
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