28 May 2010

Adapt THIS!

Some books have an unfortunate trajectory. It's a paradox. The more famous and classic a work becomes, the more apt it is to be complimented in the sincerest form (flattery, i.e. imitation) until it is complimented almost to a pulpy, sodden death. Here is the route it tends to take: superb book; decent translation of superb book (where applicable); abridgment of book into children's picture book; screenplay of book into movie; new movie of old movie; newest movie starring a kid you've never heard of because you're old enough to have read the book; soundtrack and score of newest movie; book of the movie adaptation; graphic novel of the book of the movie adaptation; action figures of the, etc. etc., and Mad Magazine satire. Not necessarily in that order.

It doesn't matter that the original was a masterpiece of sweeping and timeless prose, with language so beautiful it made you weep, encompassing vast epochs of time, and introducing complex and fascinating characters. Now it is compressed into a two and a half hour synopsis, using unintelligible grunts by an anti-hero with six-pack abs and a smallish intellect. Later, our hero becomes beefier still, and manages the entire story in comic book brevity, no longer audible, he must speak using text bubbles. At length, he is plastic and doesn't speak at all, unless your five-year-old becomes his voice. He does, however, get the said five-year-old to eat his hamburger. Finally, in an ironic but inevitable turn of events, he is parodied in a number of low-rent films, sit-coms and spin offs until it is obvious that the public is so super-saturated with the story that they refuse to hand over another nickle. That, unfortunately, takes awhile.

The good news is that you can exact a final revenge. You can go check out the book! (Don't buy it - the author's long dead anyway, and there's no point making some current copyright holder rich on the author's genius. Besides, we're fighting against the big commercial machine, remember?) Be sure to get the unabridged original. Revel in the language, spend some time with those compelling characters. Thumb your nose at the establishment! Stand up and be counted, true readers of the world! Shout from the rooftops "Give a hoot! Don't dilute!"...

Oops. I've gotten carried away again. Okay, so go see the movie, too. But just recite these words after me: "The book is always better. The book is always better."

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