R. T. F. B.
Time for a little off-topic.
You know, everywhere I look right now, I see literature being used as a means of entertainment, education, awareness and more. Our strongest and most dangerous battles these days, except those for oil, are those waged over books. There are entire cults of people (and that’s what they are) devoted to disproving books, just as there are entire cults of people who are adamant in the defence of their particular book, over those of others. I’m sure you all see where I’m going with that.
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Then you get entertainment, and now we have television series based on books (The Vampire Diaries, Dexter), games based on books (Dante’s Inferno) and of course, Hollywood is all about the books these days. Of the last five years or so, besides those god-awful holiday comedies and the odd action film, how many movies can you name off the top of your head, that are not based on some book or the other? Comics count as books, for the purposes of this article. There’s certainly reading involved, and paper, and a spine. So…
And yet strangely enough, there aren’t really that many people actually reading things. Lazy sods.
One of the best series of books that I’ve ever read was A Song of Ice and Fire, which is not yet complete, currently sitting at five released books out of seven. The sixth is headed our way some time next year. This series of books has been adapted to a very well-known HBO television series which you all probably know as Game of Thrones. The series is now at the end of its third season and has followed the books for the most part, up until halfway through the third book, A Storm of Swords.
One of the biggest talking points of season three has been the Red Wedding, which has earned the series cult classic status as more and more fans have taken to the internet to either read, write or make memes about the series, stating how different and unique it is at handling things in a mature and adult fashion, as opposed to another series of books which I’ll get to later. What this then translates to is mass exposure to the intellectual property, because now the entire world is talking about it. But guys, the book was out so long ago, how are you all only getting to it now? Granted, I only read the books after watching the first season of the television series and thinking to myself, “I must know what happens next!” So to that effect, I was also late to the party. But let’s move onto another series.
The Lord of the Rings is probably one of two really popular series of books to be made into films, adapted as faithfully as possible, much to the adoring fans of the series who’ve been reading the books for years. I’m one of those who read a few Tolkien books pre-movies but never really cared that much until watching the first movie, seeing what is possible in this world of Middle Earth, falling in love with Liv Tyler’s fingers and then deciding not only to read the trilogy but also teach myself Elvish. Seriously, I taught myself Sindarin. Alas, time has led to me forgetting most of it now. Reading the books, however, has yielded so much more to the experience, to the point that the films seem more of a fan service than the definitive way of experiencing the series. At the very least, they forgo all of Tolkien’s excessive descriptive passages, of such things as the curvature of Bilbo’s current place of living and the shape of Gimli’s eyebrows.
The other really popular series, which I’m going to talk about a bit more since it’s fresher in my mind, is that of Harry Potter, and the seven books involved with that story. The seven books spawned eight movies, the finale split into parts — presumably to milk just a little more money out of the franchise before it was over — and I was one of those who watched the movies without so much as touching the books. I do have reasons, for example my library’s copies of the books were in a worse condition than the Advanced Potions Making book of a certain potions teacher turned headmaster, and most of my friends were entirely unwilling to part with their beloved copies. Now, finally, I got around to reading the books, taking quite a bit of flak and judgement for only reading the series in my twenties, and never before.
But you know what? I’m glad I did, because I have to say that the movies don’t do the series quite as much justice as the books do. I’ve read so many pages of what might have been considered fluff, or unnecessary, or maybe just complete hogwash, in the books, that never made it to the movies. But Voldemort be damned, that shit was interesting to me. Granted, there are other things that the movies do well, such as not always making use of Dobby the
deux ex machina house elf to get Harry out of spots of bother, and there is more emphasis placed on my beloved Luna Lovegood, whom I would so marry and cherish even with her blonde hair. There’s also a better handling of arcing plot-points, where in the books it tends to have the last few chapters explain everything at once, but in the movies it’s far better paced, specifically Goblet of Fire. I would dare say that the movies and books compliment each other perfectly, allowing for a better appreciation of the series.
And this message ties greatly into all of the series I’ve mentioned. Starting with GoT, if you watch it for the shock value then you may go right ahead, but there’s a reason why there are reaction videos on YouTube, to the Red Wedding; people have already experienced just as much shock if not more, from reading the books. They knew what was coming. And knowing what happens next on television does not kill the feeling from the books, but rather means that we can comfortably and effortlessly watch the series, enjoying everything that goes on without being taken for a ride as if HBO are the ones responsible for such an amazing creation — although granted, they did green light the series, so, credit where it’s due.
Likewise for Lord of the Rings, you get the movies which do their part to portray the quests of Frodo and Aragorn, each helped along the way by a companion, be it Gollum, Legolas or Gandalf. You get to watch the epic battles unfold before your eyes and really see what the wonder of Middle Earth is like, first-hand. Then you can open up the books and immerse yourself in all the lore, history and unexplained mysteries of that world, meeting colourful characters the likes of Tom Bombadil, along the way. You get to really take in and appreciate the series a whole lot more.
I could go on with examples of The Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and so many others (although, fuck Life of Pi) but I think I’ve said enough here. You know, there’s a running joke that goes, “In any series based on a book, you don’t need to ask if someone’s read the books because they’ll be sure to remind you about it every five seconds.” I myself have begun sentences with, “Having read the books…” To you smug fucks (myself included, don’t worry) who do this, please don’t belittle those who’ve only watched the adaptations, because trust me, it doesn’t make them want to experience the books at all. Likewise, if you’re one of those who prefers to only watch and not read a damn thing, stop being so lazy, get off your fat ass and go and read a bit. (Disclaimer: You can read while on your fat ass.) Not only does it help you to get maximum enjoyment out of some series, but it means that you’ve given that series your all. And nobody can take that away from you. So please, read the fucking books.
Like Tyrion says, “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”