Tag Archives: David Barnett

Battle royal: Books v. movies

Should we allow movies to pulverize the soft images in our brains of the books we’ve read, poor defenseless images that they are? A Guardian blogger thinks it’s time to fight back, and Scatter rummages around for a few thoughts.

So, for the past few weeks we’ve talked about movies and we’ve talked about books, specifically books we were embarrassed to admit that we hadn’t read and then a little later movies that moved us to the max. Reading David Barnett’s book blog in the Guardian yesterday, I realized that some of the books I hadn’t read, books I might feel I should read under ordinary circumstances, didn’t occur to me. I’d seen the movie. This would involve the collected works of Jane Austen, for example. I just love those movies; never picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and probably never will. Though never is a long time. Strangely.

Barnett argues that ANY film version of a book, perhaps even including brilliant film versions, is an affront to the reader of the book, who has invested many hours of imaginative time over days or weeks or (gulp) months recreating the text in her/his head. Barnett’s key sentence:

Can there be anything worse than lovingly engaging with a couple of hundred thousand words of prose over perhaps two or three weeks, drinking in the author’s dialogue and descriptions, creating your own vision of the work in the privacy of your head, only to have every man and his dog (special offer on Tuesdays at your local Odeon) blast your intellectual ownership of the book out of the water after spending 90 minutes slobbing out in front of a cinema screen?

Here at Art Scatter we don’t believe in this sort of “intellectual ownership,” but we do think reading is a pretty sweet thing. And in comparing the way I approach movies to the way I approach books, I find that I am far more casual, generally, about the movie. I didn’t spend nearly as much time with Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, to cite a very recent example as I did with Peter Nadas’s essays, but felt no reservation about plunking a post down about it for your reading enjoyment. I’d read and re-read those three Nadas essays many times, assembled notes, thought and thought, before I ventured to the keyboard. Would that movie withstand that sort of scrutiny? That’s another question. But some movies do.
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