Thursday, February 24, 2011

Read Between the Lines

Today's subject matter comes to us via suggestion. Now, I know I recently stated I don't do suggested topics, however, this one is derived from a comment I have heard myself on more than one occasion. It is a matter I intended to address at some given point, as every time I hear this particular utterance of blatant stupidity, it makes me want to stab the issuer with the nearest sharp object at hand.

Today's gift from "The Best Parts of Me Ran Down My Mother's Thigh During Conception" Club?

"Why would I bother to read the book if theres a movie?"

Now, I realize I'm probably preaching to the choir on this one, but being as this is my blog and you are simply the passerby, I'm going to go ahead...

Let's open with a true story from a time in my life I generally avoid looking back upon. I once dated a girl for a brief period of time who said to me one night (this between bites of her twinkie) "Why are you always reading? Reading is stupid." This wasn't the whole reason we broke up, but you can see the mentality I was dealing with.

Personally, I love a good movie. I come home from work most nights and pop an old reliable in the DVD player and wash away my day with a few beers and mindless violence. Even better if said movie is an adaptation of a good book that I also happen to own. But, for every night like that, you could match it to a night of finding me on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot tea. (I seldom drink when I am engaged in literature)

Yet, while all of us are inclined to sit back with a good movie, it seems as though those of us choosing to shut off the television and enjoy the written word are suddenly social pariah. It's 'odd' that we can sit down and form images from words without the aid of Hollywood.

Non-readers seem to become offended at the prospect of someone pulling out a book and being able to enjoy themselves. I suspect that this has something to with our books not having pictures nor being written in rhyme.

You do not like books with words?
I will not try them.Yes, you heards.
My Mind is closed, I am a boob
I'd rather watch the mindless tube.
The shiny box makes me smile
It's where I get my ideas and style.
I can watch it in the dark
I can watch it on a lark,
I can watch it without a brain,
Of reading, I can not say the same.
I will not try these books with words,
those books are for geeks and nerds.
I would rather have TV
turn me into a fucking zombie.

Now, I probably would have dismissed the suggestion to write about this until such time as I heard someone utter those words on my own, except... Upon further inquiry, I learned that the book being discussed was Watership Down. And that folks, really tripped my trigger.

I never cease to be astounded by the amount of people I encounter that have not only not read this book, but seem to have little interest in the concept upon having it described to them.

"So, it's about talking rabbits?"

"No. It is a social commentary of the human condition."

" has talking rabbits?"


"Sounds gay."

"I hope the Black Rabbit of Inle reaps your soul."


"Nothing. Please feel free to rape my ear with more details regarding the episode of Jersey Shore you watched last night."

Not only is this a classic piece of literature, it should fall into the category of mandatory reading material for all future High School graduates. It is, quite possibly, one of the most important works of fiction that you haven't read.

Watership Down is one of those rare books that will not only invoke further thought, but it will invoke an emotional response from the reader. I cried. No shit. In two different parts. It was one of the first books that made me laugh out loud. Upon my first reading, I found myself dying for that next moment in time when I could be free to return to it. The use of rabbits, in place of people, allows the author to create charcters that are symbolic, rather than stereotypes. It also allows for a story that is timeless and could be used as a comparison for any age. That no educator in my misspent time in the churning factory of public education ever guided me towards this book is fucking criminal.

In fact, I would like to submit my Top 10 List of books that should be required reading for the American Populace (in no particular order):

1. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
2. Watership Down by Richard Adams
3. Lord of the Flies by William Goulding
4. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (the unedited version)
5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
6. The Lost Get Back Boogie by James Lee Burke
7. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
8. The Body (novella) by Stephen King
9. Last of the Breed by Louis L'amour
10. Redwall by Brian Jacques

I'm not going to go into detail on any of these books. If you haven't read them, you should, period. Outside of the Hitchhiker's Guide, I had crushed all of these repeatedly before I graduated high school. That one I kept putting off reading due to it's enormous cult following and my tendency to dislike most things that have become part of our growing pop-culture.

There are certain cases where 'waiting for the movie to come out' pays off. Forrest Gump springs to mind, quite readily. For those of you that loved this movie the way I do, I caution you to never read the idiotic piece of drivel that it was 'based' upon. That book made me want to soak my eyes in gasoline and stare at an open flame.

Yet, the idea that a 2 hour movie could capture the unspoken nuances in a 500 page novel is ludicrous. Books contain the hidden emotions and thoughts of the characters. We can readily empathize with the protaganists because we are privvy to the unspoken. Their actions do not need the clarification of forced dialouge that movie adaptations need to include.

But, who knows? Maybe I'd get a better response to this blog if I uploaded it to Youtube and gave my readers a movie version. But, I'm not sure we have the budget to cast Jason Statham, and I can't think of anyone else that would really portray my 'rip your fucking head off' style of monolouging. And, I'm just not pretentious enough to write, direct, produce and star in something myself. Yes, Ben and Matt...I'm looking at you...

No intelligent quote for today. It's my day off and I have better things to do than point out the obvious.

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