Thursday, January 31, 2008

Books vs. Movies: REDUX

There’s this great guy I’ve been seeing.
Wait a minute, let me rephrase that.
When I go to my favorite Starbucks after work, there’s this other guy who also sits there and reads voraciously as though the world was scheduled for demolition tomorrow!
He's a lot like me, in other words.
Long ago, Greg and I began talking about the books we are reading, and I saw him again tonight. Most of the stuff he reads is French [he prefers reading in that language] and right now he is on Volume 12 of a compilation of some French author called Georges Simenon. [And he’s read the other 11 volumes!]
Anyhoo, tonight he asked me if I had seen the movie Atonement.
He had not read the book but loved the movie, and I loved both movie and book. We talked about the difference between movies and books, and for the first time I realized why some people may be opposed to books, while others [like myself] actually PREFER books to movies. [Generally speaking].
It has to do with time.

I enjoy living with the scenarios and characters during the interim between readings.
For instance, I am now reading the gargantuan Ken Follett book…. well, it will probably take me two weeks or more to get through it all. But see, I LIKE that.
And I think that this sort of gestation period does not appeal to a lot of other people. They want to imagine the story scenario, yes, but they also want to be done with it in a matter of two hours or so. [← Hence, a movie is much preferable to a book, for them].
At the same time, there is so much about a movie, [cinematography] that cannot translate into print as effectively as it can translate onto the screen. ← Even that sentence is not correctly worded…. see what I mean? Language is sometimes not quite enough.
You want to SEE the mountain!
Not read about it.
You want to SEE Keira Knightley [nightly]. Not just... well, you get the point, right?

Speaking with Greg reminded me of something I had read in a Harpers article, an essay by Ursula K. LeGuin, and so I went to the magazine rack and brought it over to the table.
In Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading, Harper’s Feb. ’08 issue, she said:

… readers aren’t viewers; they recognize their pleasure as different from that of being entertained. Once you’ve pressed the ON button, the TV goes on, and on, and on, and all you have to do is sit and stare. But reading is active, an act of attention, of absorbed alertness – not all that different from hunting, in fact, or from gathering. In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it – everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not “interactive” with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.

Not everyone is up for it.
I wonder if any of you recall the engaging discussion here at Bookpuddle, engendered by my one Kunderian Splash du Jour?
It was about Book vs. Movies.
Check it out, in the COMMENTS section HERE.



John said...

Do you think you can put me in touch with your friend Greg who, by the way, is not yet even halfway through. I'd love to know a bit about his favorites in the collection.

Beth said...

I love that quotation from Harper's - "absorbed alertness."

Jeane said...

I really enjoyed reading that post. Thanks for sharing the words of LeGuin!

cipriano said...

Sorry, John. I do not have any contact information for Greg.

Beth, LeGuin is a gem. She is so erudite, wicked astute.
I've read several essays by her, she is always interesting.

Jeane: Thank you for reading. Have a great weekend!