There was a coolness to the room that I had never experienced before. Jake never really talked about the place – just said it belonged to his grandparents, Jimmy and Ida, back in the ‘50s.
“Check this out,” he said. I pulled away from the dust-coated roll-desk I had found in the back corner of what appeared to be the living room of the place. Jake was rolling something over in his hand; a glimmer caught it from the bright moonlight which hung over Williams Lake above the dim Colorado evening.
“What is it?” I asked walking over still trying to eye the piece he was fiddling with.
“A stopwatch, it looks like,” he looked up at me and smiled. “Or would you call it a chronograph?” He snorted. He knew how much words meant to me. Now just wasn’t the time to joke about literature and grammar. That was exactly why he did it.
“Well,” he said. “Shall we try it out?”
“Yeah,” I said, “Time how long it takes me to run down to the lake and back.” It was just outside the front door. Seconds away.
“Ready?” I asked. “Set. Go!”
I jumped past him, out the front door, ran to touch the cool waters of the lake and darted back inside.
“Stop!” I said. “What was the time?”
Jake was still. His eyes frozen, looking at the golden oval weight in his hand.
“C’mon man, what time did I get?”
But Jake didn’t move, nothing did. Not even the fine gold chain that hung from the watch.
He was frozen, stopped, still, and around me the room began to change.
I have this policy. It’s more of a personal preference, really, but, either way, I’m usually pretty good about following through. The premise is straightforward enough – do not watch the cinematic rendition of an already established literary piece before first reading the piece itself. In lay terms – don’t watch the movie before reading the book.
This is in no way a disparagement of the film industry, of course, but the grounds of which certainly merit elaboration.
Let’s face it – as a species, we’re suckers for stories. Every day, hour, microsecond (someone could argue that), we’re engaged in some sort of story. It could be anything from reading about the latest restaurant review to writing an e-mail to a friend agreeing to meet for dinner. Whatever it is, talking or listening, at some degree, whether we’re cognizant of it or not, we’re all storytellers – chefs serving anecdotal entrées (be it entertaining or strictly informative) using our special ingredients of fact and fiction. Stories of love, hate, fear, and loathing, no matter the case, we love it; we eat it up. Yet, without trying to sound too judgmental, we’re also a wee bit averse to more effort than necessary (FINE PRINT: yes, I just said that you were lazy). So, given the choice between film or font, we would usually prefer to recline in front of a 30’ X 70’ screen and get fat on fake-buttered popcorn and nibbles and bits of sugary goodies.
There’s no need to state the obvious here – as a population, we read less than ever before. I’m not talking about the malarkey online statements that aver that we read more than ever before, because reading e-mail, Tumblr, or Amazon receipts ad nauseum doesn’t quite constitute reading.
You know what I mean by reading, right? I mean real fucking reading. Reading books, not e-readers, not bullshit iPods/Pads/Pamphlets or whatever other type of pocket screens you carry around (books and games for me are like Church and State – keep ‘em separate). I’m talking about reading for pleasure, reading something that you love.
Because that’s the “real” story. I use quotation marks here because it’s my own definition of real. The real story are the ones that each of us sees in our own heads. What did Harry Potter look like in your mind before you saw Daniel Radcliffe play him? What about Hermione?
Exactly. They were your own, just the way that you saw them. They were perfect.
I read the books first for different reasons. I could create a list of those reasons, but this is prose, not a grocery list, and I’d rather not allow my thoughts to be bullet points.
Text, in as many advantages as it has, comes with the requirement of effort on the part of the ‘to be entertained.’ The entertainer, on the one hand, certainly has to put in the effort to provide the entertainment, the product. It’s sort of like the soda jerk who makes the viscous, but highly-addictive milkshake for you, the customer. The idea is that you will probably enjoy the product, however, you will have to extend your arm, grasp the low-quality, but visibly catchy paper/plastic cup, raise it to your sweet little sugar pouting lips and suck like a porn star. That’s how we, the customer (after having paid for our product) acquire the value of said product. Now, compare that to reading.
We (the humans) buy the book, to get all the joy of the book into our bodies, it’s not like we can just snap a USB cord into it and slip the opposing end into our brain’s pleasure center. Doesn’t work that way. We have to run our eyes over every single word beginning after the first cover and going all the way to the back cover…and that usually takes longer than the porn suck.
If only there were a more expeditious way.
Enter FILM, Stage Right.
The motion picture – humanity’s answer to the “full” story in a small fraction of the time it takes to read a book.
Short and sweet – now (finally!) we don’t have to spend days or weeks or (yes) even months reading this bullshit and having to trudge through the ultra boring bits about the main character’s love life and how they really feel about the guy and their emotions or the work, all for the sake of ‘character development.’ Now I can finally watch Tolkien’s classics without having to read all that prolonged trash about him describing a branch on a tree in a forest full of Orcs, or Ents, or ugly things. Yes! The Movie! Finally! My prayers have been ans-
You may feel like your prayers were answered, but (and you’ll never believe me) you’re missing all the glory of the written word. If you watch the movies all the time and never read, you’ll be missing how much better the book is compared to the movie. Now, if you’re just plain impatient, well I can’t help you, although I do believe there are certain people within certain professions who may be of service. But, I’m imploring you not to just do it out of your love of things that blow up, or colors or beautiful people (though I’m not saying you should deny yourself of such pleasures – they’re wonderful; they are. But this is simply my own commentary on watching movies before reading the work in text).
Okay, where am I going with this.
Here’s where I’m going. The long (Tolkien version of the) story is that (for whatever reason) I chose to watch the film rendition of a story that was already in text. Mistake No. 1. I really wanted to have read the story before the movie came out (just like I did with Harry Potter), but for some reason I didn’t, and now that I’ve watched the film, I have picked up the book and am finding it exceedingly difficult to read it.
Because I already know what happens! That’s why. So, guess what I have to do. Well, let’s start with guess what I can’t do right now – I can’t really enjoy and savor the book the same way. It’s not like I’ll be up until the wee hours of the morning waiting to see what happens when everyone finds out that the butler’s really a herm. I already know the story. It’s almost as if it’s cheating, almost as if I’m cheating myself.
So, back to what I have to do – I have to wait until I forget the entire story and then go back to the book.
Well, lessons learned for next time, I suppose.
Look, for me a book can take at least a week (two if I have a job – which, at the moment, thankfully…), but a movie takes a couple of hours. Why not just read the book, enjoy it, lap it up, savor it and all that, and then, when you’re ready for a nice evening out, reward yourself with the movie. You’ll find exactly how different they are – as you have heard or experienced, perhaps, yourself.
Go ahead – stop reading this right now and look up how books sales have changed in the past 50 years.