The Book Was Better? Shut up.

5 Jul

(Warning: a small section of this piece was influenced by “the gimp” in the film Pulp Fiction)

The Gimp Play Set

This is just weird

Have you ever watched a movie, based on a book you’ve already read, and said “Wow, the movie was so much better than the book.” Of course you haven’t. Have you ever heard someone else say that? No, you haven’t.

Okay, there might be one exception to this: take a non-reader, give him a novel, watch him drop out after 15 pages, present the film and he’ll prefer that film based on those 15 pages. “The book sucked, man.” This is SO not even worth mentioning that I can’t believe I just did.

So I’m proposing to the human race that wipe out these four words arranged in this particular order:

  1. The
  2. book
  3. was
  4. better

From now on it is socially acceptable to punch the face of those who utter that sentence. If the cops show up, I got your back dude–call me.

Modern commercial movies offer you sounds and pictures, including explosions and car chases–even if they have to insert this new action where it didn’t exist in the book. You don’t need sunglasses and ear plugs to read the novel. Old, frail geezers are susceptible to heart attacks from random movie explosions, but that same ol’ bag of bones can read the novel without fear of sudden death.

Okay, so the movie will probably suck, but even if it doesn’t, a ninety minute film cannot do what a three hundred page novel can do. If you are of average American intelligence it will take you over three years to get through that novel. Actually, I was just kidding there, we have the intelligence, but we don’t have the time to read anymore (ya know, we have e-mail to check and crops to tend to in Farmville).

If, after the three years, you’re able to track down a copy of the movie, you’ll notice that you can’t remember anything about the plot because it’s been so damn long since you read the first part of the book (and you were watching tv at the same time anyway).  So what people do is compare the film, which is fresh in your head (your ears are still a-ringin’), to a novel that we stared at but didn’t read–a long, long time ago. But they will STILL say the novel was better because they’re insecure about not being able to make it through a single book since college.

At home you can enjoy your novel in silence (except for the squeaks of the gimp you have locked up in that secret room of yours), naked except for your sombrero, and focused except you can’t stop thinking about how you’re going to get the gimp to wear the sombrero later.

Naked man wearing a sombrero

The only photo I could find of a naked man wearing a sombrero. The small hat has nothing to do with this post.

Also, how in the hell are you going to read when you have a forever-noisy cell phone strapped to your face, an iPad taped to your ribs, and a whole list of shit (Bingo!) you’d rather be doing in your head?  Screw that book, let’s get dressed and go see a good flick.

In the theater you’re surrounded by hundreds of stinky, talky, farty strangers who laugh in the wrong places, you’re worried about the gimp feeling lonely, and the assholes behind you won’t stop bitchin’ about your sombrero. Don’t forget that your feet are stuck to the floor with Gorilla Glue-like strength (Once at the concessions for a popcorn re-fill, I realized that my shoes were still back enjoying the movie–apparently intent on filling me in on what I had missed).

I just realized that I could have skipped the last several paragraphs in favor of the next (boring) one to cover what I had started to talk about, which is the comparison of the written story with the film adaptation of the same story–not the comparison of the experience of reading at home vs. the experience of watching a movie in a theater. It’s so freeing without the constraints of being a “real” writer.

The novel, which can be read in 10 to 15 hours, depending on the length, is able to explore its characters in great depth giving us access to to their thoughts–fears, desires, memories. The novelist has time to dawdle about, provided rich details that the film director can never match in a 90 minute film. While reading a good novel we can pause to lie back, let the book close on our fingers, and to digest the passage just experienced, to chew on the deeper meanings. The film delivers a different experienced that can be equally exhilarating, but not in the same way. We rarely pause to reflect on a theme, it’s meant to be taken in in one sitting, not slept on and returned to for several nights. I love a well-written piece of fiction and I love a well-made film, but comparing them would like comparing–here’s something original–apples and oranges. They’re both pretty cool, but one’s a lot less work.

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