In which my father gives me an “F”

Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille.

Back story: My Dad is always getting on me about being an incomparable literature snob. I am. I totally admit it. I’m always telling him that I wish he, a very smart man, would read smart literature, too. Instead, he sticks to the likes of Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton–and Nelson DeMille. So, he devised a challenge for me. We each had to present the other with a book of our choice to read as a challenge to broaden our literary horizons. I decided to make him read Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky) and he gave me Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille.

Our family-wide e-mail discussion on Night Fall follows.


22 July 2011, 8:20 a.m.

TO: Me, Mom, Gran, Aunt Shelly, Kelsey, Grace, and Sam

There are now 4 of us who have read Nelson DeMille’s epic, sure to be a classic tale Nightfall.

In 100 years from now it will be taught as a single semester long course, mandatory requirement for all English Literature grad students.

Here is the course description:

Nightfall501.  A probing, in depth look into Mr. DeMille’s crowning literary achievement.  The student will dissect DeMille’s complicated allegorical content and real-life metaphorical observations during that tumultuous year (2001) where disasters, civil unrest and uncertainty were close to the hearts of all Americans.  Only DeMille can capture the spirit of the American society during this period..  What can you say about John Corey?  What can’t you say about John Corey?  This is a graduate level 5th or 6th year level course – not meant for the undergraduate student or lesser developed student, maturity-wise.

So the three of us love it and were left speechless after reading it.   One of us not so much.  Looking at the last sentence of the Nightfall501 course description I see why this is so:

… “ not meant for the undergraduate student or lesser developed student, maturity-wise.”    Abby Pratt (she is no longer a Farson because of her poopooing Nelson) lacks the mental dexterity and maturity to understand this book.  Don’t think less of her.  When she reaches literary maturity this book will blow her away.    Feel sad for Mrs. Pratt.  Pity her small, undeveloped pea brain.



22 July 2011, 9:49 a.m.

TO: Dad / CC: Gran, Mom, Aunt Shelly, Kelsey, Grace, Sam, and Guion

“John Corey and the Role of Misogyny, Machismo, and Just Plain Awful Writing in Night Fall”

John Corey, the protagonist of Nelson DeMille’s novel Night Fall, barely deserves to be called a character. Rather, he is a walking stereotype of the worst form of American machismo. Corey does not act unless the action can be construed to make him look like a badass. He speaks in a repulsive stream of cheesy puns and arrogant claims about his prowess as a detective, his ability to kill anyone, and his unstoppable libido.

Corey is unbelievable as a human, and yet we feel that we have met him before. This is because DeMille has created Corey as a Frankenstein of Hollywood’s most exaggerated and absurd action heroes. Think of all of the worst, most predictable lines ever uttered from the likes of Nicolas Cage, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Keanu Reeves–and then imagine those lines in a book. They’re all coming out of Corey’s mouth–with no sign of stopping. The man is incapable of saying anything that is not a macho jab or a pompous play on words. Like most crazy people, Corey also likes to refer to himself in the third person. “John Corey wasn’t going to just stand there and let it happen,” and other patent absurdities like that pepper the novel, despite the fact that DeMille stupidly picked Corey as his narrator.

Corey is the least complex character in modern literature, and yet DeMille seems content to have him remain this way. As a stylist, DeMille writes with all the delicacy of a sledgehammer. He relies exclusively on “gotcha” puns for all of his characters and he does not develop them beyond a mere archetypal role.

Speaking of stereotypes, let’s consider Kate Mayfield. Mayfield is a thrilling example the gross misogyny that permeates so much of American pop culture today. Let’s ignore the fact that Corey calls her, his wife, by her full name throughout the novel. (“Kate Mayfield got out of the cab and walked towards me,” he says, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be calling one’s wife by her full name throughout a 500-page narrative.)

In short, Mayfield is every American man’s dream: She’s presumably smart, but more than that, she’s sexy and really just needs a big, strong man to solve all of her problems.

Mayfield seems like a nice person, despite the fact that she seems to cook only in “tiny teddies” and that her most impressive quality is her silky blonde hair and “amazing body.” Corey tells us that Mayfield is a great FBI agent, but we never get any evidence of that. Rather, we only see her crying softly on his shoulder when her womanly emotions get too much for her. Kate Mayfield is a convenient wife for John Corey to have. She’s sexy and she has the appearance of being smart and driven–even though she is actually incapable of accomplishing anything. In the end, she has to have her case solved by her strong, mule-headed, macho husband. She sounds like an independent woman, but Mayfield is just another wilting damsel in distress.

In conclusion, Nightfall is a brilliant example of what is wrong with most of popular culture today. We should be grateful to DeMille for giving us such a stirring example of the appalling machismo that motivates so many novels and films. For this, we should regard him with appreciation.

In short, I think Twilight would have been more bearable.


22 July 2011, 10:11 a.m.

TO: Me / CC: Mom, Gran, Aunt Shelly, Kelsey, Grace, Sam, and Guion

OMG – this is the greatest email of all time!  I have tears in my eyes from reading this.  Priceless.  I am printing it out and hanging it on my office wall.

As the professor of Nightfall501 this is the kind of passion and drive I look for in my students.   Unfortunately, Abby Pratt is a retard.

Abby Pratt clearly read the book, but clearly didn’t understand a word of it.   Again the maturity (lack thereof), is evident in that the simple brilliance of the novel eludes her.

Ms. Pratt should stick to monosyllabic reads like Twilight or Old Yeller.   I suspect that her husband (Fine Arts emeritus – UVA 2012) wrote this FINAL PAPER for her.

I give Miss Pratt an F for the course.

John M. Farson

Prof. of Fine Literature and Good Things to Read

Oxford University

A 2001 Nelson DeMille Fellow


Happy weekend!

10 thoughts on “In which my father gives me an “F”

  1. Abby: We haven’t spoken since our shared stint of ‘Intermediate Jogging’ freshman year at UNC, but I just wanted to comment and say that I love reading your blog! It’s intriguing and also, wonderfully comfortable in form and content. Like sipping homemade lemonade on a summer day or hot cocoa on a winter one…with marshmallows, of course.
    Hope all is well!

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