Friday, May 26, 2006

The broken record returns

There are so many things I've said I'd write to you about: Patricia MacLachlan, more of Kathleen Norris, memes...

...and there are so many things I cannot or will not write to you about, secrets I will not betray, boring details of my life, the feelings closest to my heart.

Which brings me back to something I always find a place on the soapbox for. I hope someday to have at least one convert: that books and movies can live in harmony, one can be wonderful as well as the other.

Finally, after all these years, I've watched Howard's End. I must now read the book, for it was only a taste. What a wonderful taste, with views of the English countryside and excellent acting by Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and my personal favorite, Helena Bonham Carter. I often watch the movie first, because I prefer contemporary novels and so I find it hard to read a "classic" as it were, cold. I need to be introduced to the characters, the setting, to know that there is a good story, not just something my English teachers would have urged on me. Unfortunately for me, Freshman English ruined Great Expectations for me, as it also ruined The Odyssey. No matter, I imagine that if they are good enough books, they'll be redeemed--I am still quite young and I do find Penelope quite a fetching character. An old maid at 34, perhaps it is time again for me to read about Miss Havisham. But it was not time for me to read about chain gangs when I was 14. Or to read the Odyssey one chapter in verse and the next in prose. So I have a dislike for classics. I want to like them, which is why I watch the films. And more often than not, the films are a good introduction; I eventually get to the books.

The Three Musketeers, for instance. Disney came out with a swashbuckling rendition in 1993, the year I graduated college. I went again and again to the theatre and laughed and laughed (I was trying to get rid of a cold.) Years later, whenever I had use of someone's VCR, I rented it and laughed some more. In 1996, I went to Brasilia on Christmas holiday to visit my parents, who lived there. I had a sinus infection, so I sat in the warm backyard every afternoon and read the suitcase of books I'd brought. Some books, The Wizard of Oz, I finished in an afternoon. Others, The Three Musketeers, took all week.

My favorite Jane Austen is Persuasion. I saw the movie before I had even heard of the novel. I never really liked Pride and Prejudice (another English class disaster.) But Persuasion I could sink my teeth into. I suppose it appealed to me because I considered myself a bit an old maid at 26, when I first imbibed Anne Elliot's tale. But it is also a more mature story. Pride and Prejudice is silly. Persuasion has depth. But this is not a post about Anne Elliot or Jane Austen or foolish English literature education.

It is merely this: a movie brings something a book cannot. Color, and sound, and scenery. And a book brings much that a movie cannot: pages and pages and pages. Just today I was conversing with a co-worker who isn't sure whether or not to go see the Da Vinci Code. I myself have not yet made up my mind. I've heard the critics hated it, but an acquaintance who hadn't read the book told me Sunday past that it wasn't bad. I'd rather go see that movie with the teenage gymnasts. I go to the movies for a laugh or a cry. I rarely go for an intellectual or religious experience. So I brought out my soapbox for her--it wasn't a new conversation piece. She always likes the one she meets up with first. And while I can see how that might happen, I love the two mediums so robustly that I wouldn't want to have that mindset. Hoot, for instance, wasn't the best movie from a book, but it had its moments, and there were some rather clever additions that would have not worked in the book.

Perhaps it could go along with my love for different translations. Once I find a verse I like, in the Bible, that is, I check to see how others have translated it. I live in the varied verbiage. I like the chatter. Some Psalms read better in the King James. Some minor prophets sound glorious in the New Living Translation. Some verses only read well in one translation. Some read well in all, and you see different facets because of the different words used in each one.

Night has fallen here in Highland Park. Tonight I was supposed to watch another great adaptation, Freaky Friday (the one with Lindsay Lohan) but I came home from work early not feeling well. I napped for two hours. I had yogurt and rice for dinner.

I'm almost done listening to Elizabeth Berg's book that has Welcome in the title. I was astonished to learn that E.B. is the reader! She does an amazing job at all the voices, missing the mark only a few times.

Well, dear ones, I think I'll see if sleep will cover me once again.


Sarah Louise said...

sorry no links--maybe I'll link it up tomorrow. For now, I'll pull under the covers.

PJ said...

The best example is (I think), Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie was a good movie but would have made a terrible book and vice versa, although not a classic. But still... I have learned to take each on it's own terms.

Sarah Louise said...

Hmm...that's one I haven't seen (or read) yet. It *is* a long weekend. And our library has a deliciously large video/DVD collection...

...and good to know there is at least *one* person who agrees with me on the movie/book argument. PJ, you are a good egg!

Badger said...

I have to admit, there are some books I have loved so much that I can't bear to see the movie versions. (Example: I Capture the Castle, even though others who have loved the book told me the movie is excellent. I just can't.)

However, I agree with you that both have their merits. While I love the book version of To Kill A Mockingbird, I actually love the movie more.

Sarah Louise said...

Now that I've watched the movie made of The Joy Luck Club umpteen million times (for years before I owned a VCR it was the only tape I owned)I can't go back to the book. But I remember loving the book. Another one where I can't go back to the book is The Color Purple.

Aside: I have a cold and I don't wanna be at work!! Alas.

BabelBabe said...

oh gosh, i so disagree with you, i won't even go there. but i am with badge - to kill a mockingbird is wonderful, both book and movie. good example.

Sarah Louise said...

don't worry, we can still be friends.

wow, you changed your profile picture!