I love reading. Often more than I love people. Frequent visitors to my blog or those who follow me on Twitter may gauge this by by how often I go on and on about the good books I have read and how much I love them.
The problem with this in a society filled with people who expect instant gratification and instant information with minimal effort – is that a joy that was once shared by millions of people and was the only way in which stories could be passed on and revealed – has now been transformed into another medium. That of film.
But do films and novels give you the same satisfaction? The same information? The same benefits? The answer to that question is a loudly resounding and resonating no. Even when they are based on the same story.
Why? Because with film you are given a version of events, rather than fabricating your own. You are not allowed to come to your own conclusions, but rather given someone elses. In a movie you are told what to think and how to feel and how to envision the characters. In a novel, they are (almost) as much your creation as they are the authors. They live in your head and share the same significances any of your friends or acquaintances do. That’s part of the reason I love reading so much. That’s part of the reason it’s so bitter-sweet when you’re thumbing the last page of the novel. You know their story is partly ending with you.
Turning the pages to a novel is like entering an entirely different world. One in which your first world pains don’t matter. One in which you become deeply entrenched in the story – re-reading sentences that change your life and your perception on it. Just how John Greens ‘The Fault in our stars‘ left me sobbing and with an entirely different idea of what is important, and normal.
One of the only movies I have ever seen that has stayed true to its novel form is ‘The Help.’ A feat that was not easily achieved, but rather ensured through the persistence of the author – Kathryn Stockett – to make sure the film rights were passed on to someone who would stay true to the story. In this case, her best friend.
Other renditions of my favourite books the likes of Time Travellers Wife and Eat Pray Love were heartbreaking to watch. Marring favourite phrases, making favourite characters hateful and plots confusing. Film critic Flossie Topping partially agrees, arguing that it is lazy to make book adaptations for the screen, and that original screenplays are always better.
It’s not entirely the film makers faults of course. Apart from the argument that it is not what we read and therefore not what we expect to watch… The fact that an entire story spanning hundreds of pages and delved into with as much depth as the author wishes to and can muster, must be condensed into an easy to digest one hour and thirty minute film is a task I would not envy.
This is worsened by the thirst for money which makes all these films need to conform to Hollywood standards. Tears, drama and big, big stories. Even if that isn’t the purpose behind the novel. Perhaps what Hollywood should realise is that if the book is a bestseller – it’s pretty obvious we like it that way.
That is not to say that change isn’t good. “Change is the only constant.” But some things should be left sacred, and pure. Technology and the advancement of society have taken so much away. Leave us our printed words.
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them”. – Mark Twain
“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”
“What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” – Edward P. Morgan