Like Conan O'Brien, Thoreau went to Harvard. In the New York Times Book Review this weekend, Jennifer Schuessler writes of Flannery O'Connor, who is the subject of a great book review by Joy Williams:
O’Connor never made the best-seller list, but she did catch the eye of the budding literary critics Tommy Lee Jones and Conan O’Brien, both of whom wrote Harvard undergraduate theses on her work. In his Class Day speech at Harvard in 2000, O’Brien described the awesome, kryptonite-like powers of his analysis: “I wrote a thesis: ‘Literary Progeria in the Works of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.’ Let’s just say that, during my discussions with Pauly Shore, it doesn’t come up much. For three years after graduation I kept my thesis in the glove compartment of my car so I could show it to a policeman in case I was pulled over. License, registration, cultural exploration of the Man Child in ‘The Sound and the Fury.’ . . .” Jones, according to The Boston Globe, received cum laude honors for his opus. O’Brien’s thesis grade has apparently not been disclosed.
Also like Conan O'Brien, Thoreau was big on getting laughs out of his lecture audience, though today have lost their sense of humor when it comes to (a) Thoreau and (b) nature, among other things.
(Photo NYPL Digital archives here--New York's first known comedian.)