Book vs. Movie Debate

Photo Credit: Ariel da Silva Parreira

It’s the clash of the titans, the age-old dilemma with fervent advocates on either side.

To read, or not to read—and by this I mean a book before its movie adaption.

I recently went to see Beautiful Creatures and walked away thinking it was an all right movie (Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson were fabulous). I’d learned that the movie was based off of a book, but I didn’t have time to read it before seeing the movie. Usually, my policy is to read the book before seeing the movie, but according to some of my friends, that may be a backward way of doing it.

I’ll use Beautiful Creatures as a case study because it was the first time I’ve done the opposite. Honestly, I’m intrigued by what actually happens in the book, but I don’t have a burning desire to read it.

For me, that’s the Achilles heel. What if, based on a mediocre or awful movie, I completely dismiss amazing literature? Someone said to me that reading a book before seeing the movie is like having an extended version of a book or being a celebrity insider. You already know what’s going to happen and you’re familiar with all the characters/have an idea in your head of how you want them to be, so watching a movie can be like a reunion with old friends.

Except all reunions don’t end well, which is often the case for movie adaptions.

However, seeing the movie before reading the book could ruin a chance to read the book based on the actors, director, or the overall movie structure. Plus you already know the ending to the book, which could make actually reading it tedious.

After I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I really wanted to read the book. It helped that the author had a hand in the screenwriting process because he was able to translate his vision into the movie. I felt that I would be getting the same vision, the same essence if I read the book as well. Many times, this does not translate well between movies and film.

The issue is becoming more apparent as more books take on the big screen. For this year alone, 26 books will be adapted into movies. In the next couple of years, as many as 60 books could either wow us or make us groan inwardly when they make their adapted debut on the big screen. The hunger for favorite literary stories to see a larger than life stage is almost palpable in public opinion. As early as 1899 with the Brothers’ Grimm adaption of Cinderella, literary works adapted for movies have proven to be an enduring market.

This still doesn’t solve my dilemma. A good movie should be able to stand on its own, despite any preconceived notions or bias a reader may have. Books and movies are two separate creative entities with different means of expression and should be allowed a judgment based on self merit and not the merit of the opposing entity. I recognize this, and yet it is very hard to do when reading a book and then seeing a movie that had the potential to be good.

Personally, I know that by watching a movie, I’ll either have a strong reaction to reading the book or I’m blasé about it. I’m always interested in new literature, but it would take an exceptional movie to actually propel me to read the book. In this way, the movie is the book’s sales pitch without even intending to be. This either leads to a return on investment for the author, in the sense that audiences will buy more books or an adverse reaction to the author’s work based on a movie.

It shouldn’t be that way, but so often watching the movie before reading the book makes it that way.

I’ll stick with reading the book before the movie, when I can manage it. What do you think?

Creative Reactions for Bad Lemons

By Alexandra Harris

 Has something ever ticked you off so much you felt the need to react in a creatively strong way? You all know what I’m talking about–you got food poisoning at a Brazilian restaurant and you composed a limerick about it on a restaurant review site or the promotion at work slipped past you so you just plunked down at your piano and started jamming out soul wrenching notes. No moments like these? We’ll just say those experiences were from “a friend.”

As we pretend one of those experiences wasn’t something that should have been the end result of a scene in Bridesmaids, I came across something interesting the other day as I was going through my Twitter timeline.

Margaret Atwood may not have been ticked off, but you have to admit, the following excerpt from a recently written poem of hers is a genius way to answer incoming requests for book blurbs:

“You are well-known, Ms. Atwood,” the Editor said,
And we long for your quote on this book;
A few well-placed words wouldn’t bother your head,
And would help us to get in the hook!”

“In my youth,” said Ms. Atwood, “I blurbed with the best;
I practically worked with a stencil!
I strewed quotes about with the greatest largesse,
And the phrases flowed swift from my pencil.

For some reason as I read the poem, I had a mental picture of a girl with pigtails skipping to some lively tune out of Mary Poppins. Ms. Atwood probably receives hundreds if not thousands of requests to give her input on some new writer’s work. Which is all fine and good and she seems like a good sport about it. But when you’re a writer yourself and you have thousands of incoming requests to work on other people’s work, it probably would be a bit frustrating.  

Personally I find it difficult to remain calm and act with good manners when something beyond irritating happens. You know, when one of those moments happens and your mind draws a blank for five seconds because of the inconceivable stupidity that unfortunately, and for no reason that makes sense, happened to you.

Remaining calm is a life skill apparently and if you’ve learned it, good sir or madam I give you props! I should take notes so I can replace my “take a deep breath” method. Although when I get back to the comfort of my own room, my creative juices may congeal into something that faintly echoes this.

However, while I may not have a sick beat like Jay in Awkward Black Girl and I probably wouldn’t rap out my sestina or free verse because someone probably would come in and hear my deepest darkest, writing can be good therapy. Creating something can be soothing. A horrible situation is definitely fuel for your next story idea, poem, novel, or illustration.

So don’t get too ticked off before you remember to write everything down. You’ll definitely get glad after you’ve looked at your masterpiece later. 

Alexandria Harris is a writer and recent college graduate. When she isn’t writing, watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on repeat, or working in her father’s company, she tweets regularly on her account @_ALHarris. Alexandria lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Erotica 2.0

Earlier this week, Alex profiled the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, and the literary revolution the steamy smut book’s having on booksellers, agents, libraries–and yes, writers.  But what few people know (or a lot of people know, but aren’t willing to bring up, at least in public) is that erotica is a booming industry within the literary world.  According to MSNBC, what was once the domain of perverts and sexaholics has been front and center in revitalizing what is already a struggling industry. The e-book niche has been particularly profitable, helped in no small part by the thousands of erotic tables available for download–many for a pittance of the price people would pay to walk red-faced into a Barnes and Noble and ask for the latest negligee-busting tome.

Speaking of sexaholics, the latest book to make waves is Sexoholics. Written by an author known only as Pynk (writers rarely use their real name, for fairly obvious reasons).  Centering around a group of female sex addicts, the book takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to the very real (and debatable) problem of sex addiction.  Led by caring psychiatrist Dr. Rachel Cummings *cue snorts*, the Cummings shephards the foursome as they reveal their tortured-and very raunchy–pasts one by one.  Imagine if Dr. Drew sat in on an Onanists Anonymous support group.

You get the idea.

Despite it’s taboo subject matter, Sexaholics and it’s author is extremely popular among recovering sex addicts as well as people looking for a little escape from the day to day.  Several discussion groups have started online around the book and others like it, and some have branched out into writing erotic fanfiction of their own, some of it very, very good (just take my word for it, or do a Google search).

Anyone who is familiar with Charlaine Harris or Susan Sizemore can testify to the boundary-pushing impact erotica has had on the paranormal and horror genre. One of the books I reviewed not long ago contained a steamy sex scene between a female police detective and a vampire, and it proved to be among the most popular (at least, among the commenters who RTFA).

Women continue to make up the majority of erotic authors, but men like Eric Jerome Dickey have made their mark as well.  Men also make up a small but growing  segment of the market as well. What was once the province of sex-starved housewives has spun out into several niches, from stories featuring Amazon women kicking tail to vampire squids on a sexual rampage. When it comes to erotica, there’s more than 52 flavor–and everyone knows what they like.

 Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.