Monday, November 22, 2010

I Never Read That Movie

This is not going to be a major revelation here, but if you read a book and then see the movie made about that book you will not like it. It’s just not possible. Doesn’t this make total sense? Forget about the fact that you can only picture the characters exactly as you envisioned them and likely Julia Roberts was not one of them. The main thing is you already know the entire story. You know how it ends. There are no surprises here.

I’m trying to think of the last movie I saw that was from a book I read and I just can’t because I just can’t do it. There were fantastic movies that were made from books that I never read, including, off the top of my head, “Fight Club,” “Clockers,” and “L.A. Confidential.” But what if I’d read the books? Would anyone really want to see “Fight Club” knowing how it would end? I won’t reveal the ending here, but trust me, you wouldn’t. Except there are those people, well, you know, everyone really, who rush out to read the book precisely so that they can then see the movie. But why? These are the very same people who will tell you that they liked the book better. Exactly.

The exception to this, as everyone knows, is A Clockwork Orange, which is just as perfect a book as it is a movie and I read and saw both about a million times each. But hang on, could I be talking about the exception that proves the rule? Let me digress for a moment. Okay, so you have the rule: movies made from books are never as good as the books. Then you have the exception: A Clockwork Orange. Now, how does this prove the rule? It proves that the rule is not a rule because there is an exception. It is the exception that disproves the rule. Is what I think! Except that if you google this expression, you’ll find a reasonable explanation that points out the origin of this legal saying that came from the Latin Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis. So fine. What’s it going be then, eh?

There was me, writing about books and movies. So. What happens if you see the movie first and then read the book? This tends to work out pretty well and I’m not sure why. But to be clear I am not, repeat not, talking about those books made from Star Wars screenplays or movie tie-in books. I just mean the regular old book, though sometimes reading one of those can make you feel sheepish because the new edition of the book has a scene from the movie on the cover instead of the normal cover and it looks to everyone like you just bought the book because everyone was talking about the movie, which you did, but whatever. I’d probably read Fight Club is what I’m getting at.

This is all on my mind because a certain person in my household has taken it upon himself to methodically watch all the movies he missed since January 2001, which coincidentally was just after our older daughter was born. I believe he is now up to February 2001. When I mention us watching movies that came out, oh, I don’t know, last year, his response is, “Oh, we’ll get to it…eventually.” But luckily he tends to agree with me about movies made out of books. Which means that this new, er, long-term project will go just ever so slightly faster. Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep on reading what I’ve got here and pretend not to notice that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” is playing just down the block.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reading Without Actually Reading

Whenever we visit my father and stepmother I always think I’m going to get some reading done. And so I will bring a book and at least one or two New Yorkers that I am, as always, in the middle of reading. But this is just false optimism on my part. What inevitably happens is that I will gather up a huge stack of my stepmother’s past issues of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and then I will spend the entire weekend flipping through them, but not exactly reading them.

Those magazines are bewitching. They are as bewitching as Seventeen magazine was for me when I was a young girl. It’s kind of like, here are people about my age but they are nothing like me at all. Not even remotely. And they all look so fancy! And there’s always the feature article where it’s like some family just happens to be hosting this fantastic dinner party either out on their fabulous back porch with gorgeously placed lighting or inside their regular old dining room with a stunning hand-planed oak farm table and they just happened to invite the camera crew from Living magazine along. Or maybe I’m not actually getting something about this. Maybe this is exactly what happens? Either way, I find myself flipping through those pages again and again.

Which is also what happens whenever the new Cook’s Illustrated arrives in the mail. Ever since we made our very first recipe from the magazine, salmon cakes I believe it was sometime in 1998, we have been subscribers. And if you’ve ever had dinner at our house, well, at least some of it came from some issue of Cook’s. You know that triple mousse cake? Exactly. But anyhow, whenever we get it in the mail, I usually flip through it over and over again, while giving a running narrative of pretty much everything to my husband, who is almost always otherwise engaged. Something like: Ooh, look, I can make this chocolate raspberry torte! But wait, they actually call it a showpiece. Why are they calling it a showpiece? It has to look that pretty? I guess I can't make it. Oh, but wait, here is another recipe for sugar cookies, even though they already have a perfectly good sugar cookie recipe. But this time they are adding cream cheese. They are running out of ideas, I think. And look, look at these mashed potatoes. Let's make these tonight! Etc.

And that I don't think counts as reading as just more of that frenetic flipping through pages thing, which I seem to have perfected over the years. And is also what I do with any set of complicated directions, like for a digital camera, say. I think if you flip through something long enough the information will somehow make it into your brain through a kind of osmosis, thereby sparing you the necessity of actually reading the overwhelmingly detailed and wordy words on the page.

Thus allowing you time for things you really want to be reading, which might actually be The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and whatever's in the latest New Yorker.