Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

#7: Saw the Movie, and then I Read the Book (or intend to someday)

Though a professed Book Booster, I  freely admit I haven’t gotten around to reading all that I desire, or for that matter, should.  With time and interest constraints I tend to be selective in my reading, which can be received as either justification or a lame excuse.  I view my dosing of classics like one who would rather take a vitamin rather than endure the indignities of measured broccoli consumption.  Often I will watch a movie and decide, “Well now, I get the gist of the plot, let’s test drive the book.”  Or words to that effect.  Here are some movies which have prompted me to finally read the book:

1. Huckleberry Finn: As much as enjoy Mark Twain as a personality I’m not much for reading his books.  A  couple of summers ago I attended a week-long conference on Mark Twain, complete with experts and workshops, and still did not become a fan.  I will go on professing his genius and his contributions to literature, although I am a reluctant reader.  When I watched the movie I became drawn into the complexities of how a young man, namely Huckleberry, came to shed the baggage of his culture, slavery, being the biggest bag. Twain is an unmerited expert in taking on such a huge issue and presenting it so that it palatable.  Then again, Twain’s presentation creates a lump hard to swallow for many people, which is why Huckleberry Finn continues to be a challenged list somewhere at any given point.

Cover of "Les Miserables"

Cover of Les Miserables

2.  Les Miserables: Someone told me how they suffered the reading of this classic in their French class, and it made me leery.  He said it was not the  struggling through the actual reading of it–it was the sad, sad nature of the book.  I think absolutely depressing, was the term used.  Not exactly the best encourager to check it out for myself.  I watched the Liam Neeson version and went on emotional alert.  The acting, the story, the cinematography–all riveting. I wept, I commiserated, I rankled at the injustice, I shivered with anticipation, I was exhausted when the final credit rolled by. Shamefully,  I still haven’t read the book.  I am concerned I would compare it too much to the movie.  Yes, the movie was that amazing.

3. Little Dorrit, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Oliver–okay, okay, pretty much all of Dickens.  I’ve professed in a previous post my grievance of Dickens’ penchant for overwriting; nevertheless, it is no excuse for me not to read his books.  Again, I respect his tremendous literary influence, especially in terms of how his writings brought about social reform (child labor laws, especially). There is so much profundity in his writing I cannot properly chew and digest. Literary indigestion, I’m afraid.  Hence, I pop that cinematic vitamin pill and feel vindicated that at least I’m experiencing Dickens.  This is why I adore the British Broadcasting Company. All of the Dickens adaptations watched have been BBC productions viewed via the Masterpiece Theater on-line option.  My latest viewing involved the newest version of Great Expectations with Gillian Anderson as the imposing Miss Haversham.  Wow and my goodness, she was incredible.  Having invested heavily into the Thursday Next adventures by Jasper Fforde, I thought it essential to understand who and what Miss Haversham was all about.  Gillian Anderson provided the answers.

4. The African Queen: Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  How could I resist such a combination? After watching their captivating performance I sought out the book.  For once I will state  the movie proved better than the book.  Especially the ending.  No spoiler. Nuff said on this one.

Cover of "The African Queen (Commemorativ...

Cover via Amazon

5.  True Grit: My dad and I watched plenty of John Waynemovies together and I couldn’t believe someone would be bold enough to remake the one movie, his signature movie.  Staying true to the Duke I snubbed the Coen’s remake and simmered.  After hearing all the good reviews, and prompted by family members I relented finally and checked out the DVD.  This was no remake, but a recreation.  The Coen’s found an actress, Hailee Steinfield, who delivered a stunning performance.  She reminded me of Mary Badham’s performance in To Kill a Mockingbird.  I promptly checked Charlie Portis’s novel and found the Coen had paid fine tribute to a beautifully written story of forgiveness and redemption.  I plan on making this a required reading for my sophomores. Unfortunately, the publisher has no plans of reissuing it in a more affordable format as can be found for TKAM.  I plan on adding this movie and the book to my favorites list and will be revisiting them from time to time.

I might revisit my #7 at a later time.  Five seemed a good number for now.  Now, I pose a question for you:

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3 thoughts on “#7: Saw the Movie, and then I Read the Book (or intend to someday)

  1. I suffer from this same dilemma. It depends on how interested I am in the movie as to whether or not I can wait and read the book first or just go see it. Tom Sawyer I saw the film first, but Huckleberry Finn was something that I read the book before seeing any film adaptation. I wanted to read it for a school project and I remember my teacher was reluctant to allow me to do so because she feared I was just going to use a movie version instead of actually reading the book.

    • Sometimes seeing the movie helps put the book into a better perspective. They can complement one another,providing the movie adaptation stays true to the book. That’s the tricky part.

      • Even now there’s one line from Huckleberry Finn that I remember and it doesn’t make sense out of context so it’s odd that from the whole book it would be the one that sticks out.

        Some movies that even change the book can be fun too (i.e. Howl’s Moving Castle).

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