watch & read

With all the books being turned into movies these days, there’s a lot of discussion about whether people should read the book before watching the movie, and about how good each is in relation to the other. This might seem controversial coming from a book-lover, but after recent discussions with friends about certain books/movies, it might seem that the maximum enjoyment is achieved by watching the movie first.

Please, let me explain.

I watched “The Book Thief” (the movie created from the novel by Marcus Zusak) on the week-end. I went to see it with a friend who had not read the book (yet). I did enjoy the movie, and I thought it was actually nicely done, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about the things that were left out that I wished were in the movie. And there were certain details that were slightly different in terms of placement in the story and stuff like that.

My friend, however, seemed to enjoy the movie more than I did. Fair enough – that’s to be expected, right? However, I do believe that she will still enjoy the novel as much as I did (? ok, not sure about that – I did really like it). Reflecting back on the book, I feel like it was written in a way that allowed for “spoilers” somewhere in the middle that didn’t actually spoil the rest of the book, so whether or not someone has seen the movie probably has little bearing on how much they’ll like the book. As such, you could have optimum enjoyment of both media.

Another example is “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (novel by Audrey Niffenegger). I watched the movie before reading the book – it was the movie that made me want to read it – but I liked both a lot. However, my friend read the novel first (I lent her my copy because I thought she’d like it and, I don’t mean to brag (ok, I kind of do), but she did like it) and then watched the movie, and didn’t quite like the movie as much.

This is probably because there’s so much depth in these novels such that when you’re reading them you’re not just picturing characters and images. And, yes, actors and directors and whoever can be good at portraying and evoking emotions, but it’s hard to translate the depth of several hundred pages onto a couple of hours of silver screen time.

And then there’s also the question of leaving an appropriate time interval between one medium and the other. I think, ideally, enough time should be allowed to elapse, not so you forget the first completely, but enough so that it is a fond, distant memory. As such, when you view the other medium (I believe this applies regardless of which comes first), it’ll be like re-discovering a small treasure (assuming you actually like the story and basic concepts).

Getting back to “The Book Thief”, I just wanted to say that I reckon Sophie Nelisse, who played Liesel, and Nico Liersch, who played Rudy, were outstanding. I was disappointed, however, that this line, which featured in the trailer, did not make the final cut in the movie (unless I missed it because my mind was busy comparing things to the novel). It was something like this: “Sometimes, when life steals something from you, you have to steal something back”.

matters of consequence

I’ve just finished reading my first book of the year. It seems like quite an achievement, since it’s only January 6 and I don’t read very fast, but my first book of the year was actually quite short. You might even call it a children’s book. It was “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, complete with illustrations.

A friend recommended it to me several years ago but I never got around to borrowing her copy of it. However, last week or so, another friend also suggested that I read it, and lent me her copy, which was a gift from someone else. (Don’t you reckon books received from others are more special than those acquired of one’s own accord? Unless you’re like the Book Thief…)

Well, I could dispute whether “The Little Prince” is really a children’s book. I mean, it’s actually kind of philosophical. I don’t know – maybe I’m reading between the lines too much. At one stage when I was reading it, I had a thought that it would be a good story to deconstruct in a high school English class or something. Don’t worry, I quickly scrapped that idea. Maybe a good book for a book club or something, though…?

What I liked most about “The Little Prince” is that, although the story itself is quite ridiculous, it does a good job of making real life seem even more ridiculous. It makes you reflect on your perspectives of the world and your priorities in life. Well, I felt like that was what it was doing, anyway.

Early on in the book, the narrator introduces the notion that “grown-ups love figures”, which is kind of something that I’ve pondered on in recent times. For me, it’s more that I’ve noticed that people, when introduced to other people, will tend to enquire about the same details. For example, people will ask about the other person’s occupation and maybe which school/university they attended. They may also ask about their family background, where they live and so on.

Similarly, the narrator tells us that when you tell a grown-up that you have a new friend, they’ll ask about how old they are, how many siblings they have, and so forth, but won’t ask more meaningful questions about the person, such as their interests and actual qualities of the person.

All throughout the book, the story seems to be either poking fun at human nature or reprimanding people for doing silly things (mostly poking fun). The Little Prince meets a lot of people on his travels, and all of them are absurd in one way or another (or “very odd”, as he puts it).

I liked the fox’s explanation of “establishing ties” and how this makes certain people/things special even though they may be one of a million. I’m not sure how accurate the translation is on this one (of course, I read a translated text because I, unfortunately, only know very basic French) but one of the quotes I really liked was “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important”. I also liked the line “…because it was for her that I killed the caterpillas” – so dramatic and so… not…? Just like “But he is not a man – he is a mushroom!”

And, you know, even without the illustrations, the story itself is really quite brilliant. (The pictures do help, though, and are certainly very cute.) This is the sort of book I’d read again, and I reckon everyone should read at least once. For such a small book, I feel like I could talk about it forever. I want to finish with probably the most important quote from the book, but I reckon I’ll leave that for you to discover.

a boy and his cat

I finished reading Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’ yesterday and I can’t not write a post about it. Of course, a warning about potential spoilers, etc and possibly points that some people may disagree on but that’s ok, I guess.

Firstly, I’d like to say that, for a book about a boy stranded in a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it’s quite incredible and captivating. It’s a great novel. I like novels that are different – not just in terms of the story, but also the way it is written. I actually like that ‘Life of Pi’ was written in a way that made it feel like it was a true, researched story. Usually I don’t read the “author’s note” or introduction to a novel, but I read the one of ‘Life of Pi’ out of curiosity when I was only a little bit into the book. And good thing that I did, since it’s kind of important for the “true story” impression of the rest of it.

I’d say most of the stuff in ‘Life of Pi’ is plausible (referring to the animal story, here). I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was actually a true story – amazed, yes, but not surprised – except the part about the carnivorous island. A floating island that’s harmless by day but dangerously acidic by night? No way! I can’t believe that the teeth of the previous castaway would have survived when everything else didn’t. And why wouldn’t the acidity have been activated when Pi ate the algae? I mean, it still dissolved the rope he used to tie a bundle of it to the boat after he’d cut it up…

As to the big question at the end: I prefer the main story, with the animals. It’s much more interesting and much less gruesome. I’d rather not get into the religion side of things too much, so that brief comment will have to do.

I remember when the film came out earlier this year, some people (critics? can’t remember who exactly) were saying that ‘Life of Pi’ was a novel that could not be filmed. Well, clearly it could be filmed. Don’t know what part(s) of the novel gave them the idea that it couldn’t be filmed. They must have underestimated modern cinematography.

Anyway, I’m getting quite sleepy. Trying to go to bed earlier hasn’t exactly been working.