Monday, June 7, 2010

Why Read When You Can Watch?

Greetings Friends,

I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

I'm over my hockey mania and resigned to seeing the Stanley Cup Finals go 7 games. Part of me would like to see the Philadelphia Flyers win, further proving that Peter Laviolette is a legitimate coaching entity the New York Islanders foolishly threw away. But good for him; Long Island has become a wasteland for many reasons besides their sucky hockey team.

Today, I'd like to talk about books made into movies. There have been some silver screen gems that have done justice to the printed word, but there have also been countless wretched attempts made, turning phenomenal books into horrifically bad films. Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities stands out as the granddaddy of all bad book-to-film adaptations, and there are many others. The best, in my opinion, are The Godfather (I & II), and Martin Scorcese's version of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. There are more, but these three top my personal list.

Right now, the zeitgeist has whipped itself into a froth over the Twilight saga, which has replaced the Harry Potter frenzy of yore. I own the Harry Potter books - the British versions, but have yet to read them. I've never seen any of the movies, either. This Twilight business has me a bit perturbed because it seems to be establishing a precedent that dismisses the act of reading as a monumental waste of time. Again, my opinion rules the roost here, and I can't help but think these vapid little vampire-romance flicks are giving the young'uns an excuse to forgo the printed word. Yeah, the iPad and Amazon's Kindle are wreaking havoc in the publishing world right now, but are people really reading that much? Family, friends and acquaintances of mine are avid readers, but I'm not too sure about the "Tek" generation who seem to have forsaken books for movies. Why read when you can watch? Why lug around an actual book when you can download it off the Internet and carry it around on your impressive gadget? It's so very Zen.

I find being surrounded by books to be "Zen". I would rather read a book and never see it made into a movie. I would also never attempt to write a screen adaptation of any book, be it my own or someone else's. There are plenty of screenwriters making a great living in Hollywood, and I'm sure that once they are compensated for their time, they really don't care how big of a box-office bomb their effort turns out to be. Without sounding sanctimonious, I would care. The problem today is that the almighty dollar is what's actually wreaking havoc on the publishing world. Why blow $30 on a hardcover novel when you can wait until the movie comes out? You can go see the move and pick up the DVD for about what it would cost you to buy the book. And I'm not even taking the electronic option into account; I'm doing my level best to ignore it.

I will also try my best to ignore the ongoing Twilight mania. What sticks in my craw, though, is the fact that reading skills are being compromised in the name of Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson. Maybe if I was 20 or so years younger I'd feel differently. There's an updated version of The Karate Kid coming out soon, and I'm wondering instead, what the hell ever happened to Ralph Macchio? 



  1. Amen, sista! Although, I must say that I am doing my part to be sure that real, three-dimensional books do not go extinct.