A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Are there some books that should not be made into movies?

Good morning all!

I don't know about you, but I am eagerly awaiting the new movie based on the magical book, "The Help."  I was so completely drawn in last fall when I read this book, I can only hope the movie matches my mental images.

It probably won't.

The idea of whether the book or the movie is better is not a new one.  The book is almost always better.  Maybe that's because we all can envision things better than a Hollywood writer.  That's sort of sad, considering how much talent there is in Hollywood...ummmmm...yeah. 

There are some books that are clearly meant to be made into movies.  The visual images are simply too rich to get wrong.  Sometimes these are books that make better movies than they do books.  (Moby Dick, anyone?)

My mother always used to say that in books you can go only as far as your imagination takes you, but in movies you see everything.  It was her argument for letting me read well above my age group.  (Which is why I was reading "Jane Eyre" at 11 and really not getting why no one wanted to hang out with the lady on the third floor.)  I maintain that the opposite is true in many cases.  Your imagination can create a whole world based on the written word.  If the author is very good, he/she will convey the pictures he/she intends with words, and you will wind up "seeing" what the author had in mind.  I think movies might limit that because movies present one vision of a story.

That being the case, I ask, are there books that should never be made into movies?

I've got one, Laura Ingalls Wilder's writings about her childhood.

Wait a minute, I can hear you yelling, those books were made into a beloved TV show that ran for YEARS!

Yes, yes they were.  But, if you watch, except for most of the characters names, that TV show had very little to do with what Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote and more to do with 70's sensibilities poured into a TV show set in the late 1800's.  Don't get me wrong...I LOVED both the books and the show.  But the two had very little to do with each other.  (For example, the books are really clear that Ma and Pa had plenty to do to keep body and soul together with the four girls they had.  The TV show gives us a Ma and Pa Ingalls who pretty much adopt half the orphans in Minnesota.  While the added characters may have been needed to keep the writing fresh, they had nothing to do with books.)

I think Ms. Wilder's writing is such that a child can read and enjoy it and get a very clear picture of the life of a pioneer family.  I also think that since there aren't any major explosions, political upheaval, or espionage, the books would not translate well into movie form.  And that's not a bad thing.  That just means that her writing created such a wonderful world for readers, that no movie is ever going to do it justice.

On the flip side of the coin: You all know that I believe "Moby Dick" should never have been a book.  A good movie, yes.  A book...not in it's present form.  Had Moby Dick been published today, it would be about 150 pages long, and would probably involve robots.

So now I'm waiting to see what Hollywood does to "The Help."    I'm not sure how ready I am to be disappointed.

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