Tag Archives: deadly sin series

“The Movie Was Better:” The 9th Deadly Sin*

I just finished reading A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean’s classic novella, written in memoir style. The thing is, I was disappointed with it. This was my first time reading it, but I had high hopes because of how much I love the movie. I grew up watching that movie over and over, and I still watch it over and over. It’s such a wonderfully told, wonderfully woven coming-of-age story of love and loss, addiction and gambling, family and fishing and faith (those last two – fishing and faith – being treated as interchangeable in this particular narrative). And if you can’t relate to any of those themes, then hopefully you can at least appreciate a young Brad Pitt early in his career!

Naturally, being the bookworm I am, I started wondering why I liked the movie so much better, and I even felt a little guilty for admitting it at first. It can’t be purely about childhood nostalgia or celebrity crushing. In my brief review of the book on my Goodreads account, I recommended that any readers who love the movie and/or aren’t familiar with fly fishing skip the first hundred pages (the copy I read paginated to 160). I don’t know if I’d stick to this recommendation exactly because, to be sure, there are details (perhaps even necessary ones) in the first hundred pages that the reader might appreciate having access to. That being said, though, reading this book gave me a whole new respect for screenplay adapters and script writers. The makers of this movie took a beautiful concept that, in print, translates as piecemeal, extremely personal, and even a bit amateur, and made it into one of the most profound, complex, touching, and universal stories I have ever experienced. There’s certainly something to be said for that.

For starters, the movie’s plot line is more linear than the book’s. Book Norman jumps back and forth, in and out of various stages of his life from childhood to young adulthood to marriage to old age, and it can be difficult to tell what’s happening and in which stage it’s happening. (This is something we certainly would’ve focused revision efforts on had I been his editor.) The movie, on the other hand, moves pretty much chronologically from start to finish in a way that makes complete sense. The movie script also skillfully cuts out certain digressions detailing the technical aspects of fly fishing, the substance of which are what so bogged me down in the first half of the book.

Finally, the movie also does a good job of pulling out the best lines from the book and freeing them from their tangential entanglements so that they provoke the maximum amount of thought and reflective ahhhs. Don’t get me wrong; the book has some great one liners that are certainly thought provoking and deserve to be quoted. But it also has several trains of thought that are absurdly abstract; the kind of abstract that, like certain works of art [most notably the ones that appear to be just errant splatters on canvas, no more impressive than a first grader’s work], make me feel as if I’m missing something for not being awe inspired or driven into reverent and somber silence.

My disappointment with this book and rare (almost shameful) admission that the movie is actually better got me thinking about the other times I have experienced this anomaly. It hasn’t been often, but it has certainly been noticeable each time.

The Count of Monte Cristo is probably the most memorable. I inadvertently bought the abridged version of the book. I had already seen the movie and knew the story and, even with the abridgement, still found the book long, boring, and so tortuous that I couldn’t even finish it (notice that’s tortuous, not torturous; there is a difference). My disappointment was considerable, given that I considered Alexandre Dumas to be one of my favorite authors and I highly revere The Three Musketeers. 

The other main fault I found with The Count of Monte Cristo is that there are too many supposedly important characters and too much time between pickups of their story lines for any reasonable person to be able to remember their pertinent details. In that sense, reading the book felt like the print version of the TV show Heroes. (Remember that show? How awesome was season 1? And even season 2, and then it just got awful after that!)

Brokeback Mountain is my third example of a movie that surpasses its printed counterpart. If you know me at all (or if you’re a faithful reader), you know that I love this movie to pieces. Naturally, I assumed I would also love the short story, but I don’t. I don’t hate it, but I fell in love with the characters as portrayed by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Film Ennis and Film Jack are excellent and skilled enhancements of Annie Proulx’s Ink Ennis and Ink Jack. Proulx, like Norman Maclean, spins a tale layered with intricacy and a depth that seems almost too much to be adequately unraveled without visual aid or an outsider’s objective interpretation.

It is not a criticism of these beautiful pieces of literature to say that their visual companions did the job better. In fact, better is probably not even the right word. I posit that it’s even a credit to the authors that their works are so layered, so complex, so profound, that they require something more than just black and white words on a page. The fault lies with consumers, perhaps, rather than the authors of these fine works of prose. We consumers have become so detached from the sacred experience of literature that we need the visual stimulation, the third-party, more objective interpretations, to help us connect and engage and receive in the ways these themes deserve and are meant to be received.

That being said, would I take it well if I were told that my masterpiece was better represented, understood, and received in its butchered, doctored cinematic version instead of my own, lovingly crafted original? Likely not. But that’s a hypocritical post for another day.

*If I’m not careful, this could become a post series. I blogged about the 8th deadly sin just over a year ago.


Filed under bloggy, books, classics, experimental, movies, reviews, writing exercises

The Creased Spine: The 8th Deadly Sin

This week, my friend Brian is in the middle of moving from his current dwelling to a new one. Being the stellar friend I am, I offered to help him with some of the process, so last night he decided I could assist with moving, unpacking, and organizing his books.

Please do not misunderstand. This was no small task. You see, Brian has a personal collection to rival most used bookstores or small-town library branches. It is one of the largest private book collections I have ever seen, and if you have ever heard me talk about my dad’s collections of books, then you know that’s saying a lot.

And the thing about Brian’s books is that a large portion of them are used paperbacks. He likes used books because they’re cheap. Okay, fine. Makes total sense. But the result of buying inexpensive, used books is that you get a lot of beat-up, bent-out-of-shape, heavily creased-spine books.

So, we got all the books unpacked and onto the shelves in a somewhat haphazard manner. Now we just had to organize them alphabetically by author last name and according to about six different categories. I stared up at the four different bookshelves towering in front of me (these were not all the bookshelves; just four of the tall ones) to pay homage momentarily to such a beautiful literary shrine. Then I began to pull certain books off certain shelves for closer looks. I pulled one such white paperback off the shelf. It was in great condition; no tears, no folds, and certainly no spine creases.

Now, one of my absolute favorite things about Brian’s personality is his easygoing, super laid back, perfectly chill attitude about most everything (at least whenever I’ve seen him). He doesn’t seem to get rattled easily. He goes with the flow, no matter how fast or how slow (haha, no rhyme intended), and he just doesn’t complain about stuff. So I was totally unprepared for the events that followed my next actions.

Being a practiced spine creaser myself (most recently and vehemently on my own Harry Potter series), I was almost salivating at the thought of being the first person to lay claim to this pretty white book’s virgin spine. Envisioning the creases I would put in it was almost better than the act itself. Finally, I opened to an arbitrary spot in the first third of the book and folded the pages back as forcefully as I could, inserting a rough, large crack into the spine of the previously unblemished book.

At an audible gasp from Brian, I looked up and noticed him staring at me, a look of thunderstruck horror upon his visage having replaced the playful, lighthearted smile I usually find there. “I can’t believe you just did that!” he half whispered, as if something sacred had died and whispering might make it not so.

Then he reached out and plucked the deflowered book from my hands. I, still confused, said, like a stupid blonde, “What’s the matter? Are you joking?” (Looking back now, I can only imagine how trying on his merciful patience this inane question must have been.)

But he calmly answered, “No, I’m not joking. You just creased the spine of this book.”

Still so embarrassingly clueless I might as well have been smacking a piece of bright-pink chewing gum or twirling my hair in my fingers, I said, “Yeah. What, is that a big deal or something?”

He answered, “Yes, it’s a bit of a big deal. I don’t like creased spines, and that book was in perfect condition.”

I made a big production of looking around at all the creased spines on the many shelves in front of where we stood and then turned back to him and said, “And you’re sure you’re not joking?”

“Yes, I’m sure I’m not joking.”

There was a slight pause, and then I asked, a little hesitantly but also a little teasingly, still blissfully ignorant of the grievous trespass I had committed, not to mention the newly dug grave I was now stomping all over. “So…are ya mad?”

There was a fraction of a second’s hesitation that seemed to tell me everything.

Incredulously, I said, “You’re mad?!”

How he was still able to answer calmly at this point is a mystery to me, but he said with a smile and a perfectly even tone, “No. I’m not mad.” I don’t think he was even gritting his teeth.

I rephrased the question, like a good prosecution attorney. “Are you irritated?” At this point I was starting to understand the gravity of my actions and was worried that I had done actual damage to a friendship that suddenly seemed much more fragile than I’d previously thought.

Brian, ever the epitome of patience, answered once again, “No, I’m not irritated. I’m just shocked that you did that.” Then, with a dismissive smile, as if all was forgiven and forgotten, he put the book back on its shelf with a flourish and we moved on. I breathed a sigh of relief that the tension seemed to have passed.

A few short minutes later, I turned around to find Brian standing in front of the ruined book again, running his index finger gingerly over the fresh crease and shaking his head sadly. He muttered with bitter amusement, “Man, you really creased that thing.”

Nervous about the tenuous bond between us once again, I said, “So you are mad.”

He shook his head and said quietly, “No…”

“But you’re dwelling on it,” I pointed out carefully.

“Yes,” he conceded. “You’re right. I’m dwelling on it.”

This led to a long, drawn-out conversation in which Brian extolled the virtues of taking care of paperback books, of leaving spines uncreased and intact, and of the danger of entire books falling apart due to overly creased spines. I had never heard anyone speak of book spines this passionately and reverently before except for my dad, who has given me the exact same speech before.

If you’re wondering why, if I’d heard this speech before, I would’ve been stupid enough to grab someone’s book and irreverently bend it in half, I will tell you. The reason is that I was convinced that my dad was the only person in the world who felt this way about books. I have always viewed books as possessions to be treated like faithful stuffed animals or comforting children’s blankets – things to be battered, worn, bruised, taped, torn, and creased. For me, these elements of a book make it feel comfortable and familiar, like an old friend whose conversation I can pick up easily even if I haven’t seen it for a while.

In the end, Brian concluded with a hint of melancholy in his voice, “Man. We are not compatible book owners.”

Friends, even Smokey the Bear could tell you that a simple conversation could have prevented this whole debacle. Learn from my mistake and ask your friends how they feel about spine creasing before you go gallivanting about, attempting to make the literary world look like a less austere, more friendly place.


Filed under bloggy, books, irreverent