I Liked the Book Better – Specified

It goes without saying (and yet I have found a need to say it in a previous blog post). For writers – who are obligated to be avid readers – or those who are not writers, but are still voracious devourers of the literary world, “I liked the book better” is almost a required statement upon the viewing of a movie based on a novel. Even those movies that do a decent, or even good job, following the plot line, generally get a positive appraisal, a list of the attributes that made it one of the better adaptations, and then the standard follow-up, “But, the book was better.”

However, in this case, I am identifying a specific book. And it is a first. Because this time I am stating uncategorically and definitively, “I liked the book better” BEFORE I have even seen the movie. In fact, there is a part of me that doesn’t even want to watch the movie at all. I’ve been avoiding it, balking at it, shying away from it. Because a part of me finds it almost perverse to try to take this particular book and turn it into a film.

Have you seen those lists that show up on Facebook sometimes, the ones that ask you to list a number of books that have had some sort of enduring impact on you? Ones that have stayed with you, made an indelible mark on your mind or soul (okay, so that’s not exactly how they phrase it, but that’s how I interpret it)? A number of titles come to mind, but one that always surfaces for me is The Book Thief. I discovered this masterpiece a number of years ago. This beautiful, terrible story that deals with an era a hundred other stories have tackled. Yet, somehow, Markus Zusak hooked my heart with his words and made me bleed with the pain and the beauty of it.

There are a number of recurring themes in The Book Thief and one of them is the idea of words, words written and words read. Part of what makes this book so beautiful, and terrible, so heartrending, and palpable, and moving, and memorable is the way in which Markus Zusak crafts and molds his words. His way of writing is lovely and haunting and utterly unique. His use of figurative language and imagery weaves through the words, lines and pages like a dance. A series of dances. He crafts careful similes like snowmen in basements. His metaphors march through the streets with careful, precision steps of German soldiers. And through it all, Death is the voice of narration. With his somber, tired, human-haunted spirit and subdued air of gentleness, he walks us through the story of enough heartbreak to sadden even him.

Now how, I ask you, can you possibly portray all of this through the medium of film? If you haven’t read the book, you will probably have difficulty understanding what I mean. So much of the magnificence of this book, simultaneously wonderful and horrific, is in the crafting of it. I fear the raw power of that will be stripped away when transferred to a movie and all that will be left is a story that might not be too different than many others from this era.

But, watch the movie I must. We have been reading The Book Thief in my 10th grade English class. And it has been going very well. The kids are very into it, and have been following very well. We’ve made it over three-quarters of the way through, but we aren’t going to be able to finish. With only a week left before finals, we have to start studying for the exam next week.   Frustrated as it makes me, we are not going to have time to complete the book. I want them to know how the story ends and lacking a better means, I intend to watch the movie with them. They’re excited about it. I am not so excited. My homework is to view it before we begin watching it as a class on Monday, so I at least have an idea of how closely it keeps to the story line. But one thing I already know: “I liked the book better.”

~ S.D. Bullard

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~ by sdbullard on May 17, 2014.

One Response to “I Liked the Book Better – Specified”

  1. My sister had the same response to the movie. I was planning on watching it, but I’ve heard to many negative reviews. On to another movie, I suppose!

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