Movie’s Better: Part I

I stand before you, dear reader, to settle a debate that has raged since time immemorial (or, since movies immemorial anyway):

The book was better!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In many cases it is…but not always. Lots of times, the director brings something across in such an artful, evocative, deeply affecting way, that the author (who can deliver plot and story, but can’t draw a character to save his life) was incapable of expressing.

This isn’t exactly revolutionary. Although it does at least confuse, if not outright anger, book lovers there are lots of people who prefer an adaptation to its source material. As of the writing of this post, 663 books have gotten as many as 949 votes from the folks on Goodreads passionate enough about their selected film.

The Godfather was first published in 1969, at which time, Kirkus called it a “A Mafia Whiteoaks,  bound for popularity, once you get past the author’s barely concealed admiration for the ‘ethics’ and postulates of primitive power plays.”  In other words decent genre writing, but nothing groundbreaking.

Generally considered (nearly the) best American film ever madeThe Godfather received decent praise initially – mostly in line with surprise that it was actually any good, that it didn’t ghoulishly dwell on mob murder and stereotypes nor act as a Mafia “Whiteoaks.” Here are some examples:

Jay Cocks, Time Magazine: “In its blending of new depth with an old genre, it becomes that rarity, a mass entertainment that is also great movie art.” Although he would later foolishly pan a sequel that some consider superior,Vincent Canby raved “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” Roger Ebert: “Coppola has found a style and a visual look for all this material so ‘The Godfather’ becomes something of a rarity: a really good movie squeezed from a bestseller.”

One of his great movies, in fact. A good book, a great movie. The Godfather is fine genre writing, favoring scope over depth. The book has lived many lives, spawning 2 sequels by the author and another couple by Mark Winegardner, most recently as 2007 — generally not so great. Similarly, a lot can be said for the fat a movie must trim, such as character-defining genitalia descriptions. Bottom line: The Godfather is beloved for what it spawned; the book has diminished and since become universally considered inferior pulp to the expansive, artistic films it spawned.

Alan

Magical Realism

Magical realism is one of my favorite reading genres. If you’re not familiar with this style of writing, it is not fantasy, science fiction, or escapist fiction. Rather, magical realist stories typically portray the world in ways beyond the objective – life described richly with delight, passion, and wonder.

The House of the SpiritsNancy Pearl describes magical realism as “a style of writing that allows authors to look at our own world through the lens of another world, an imagined yet very familiar one in which past, present, and future are often intertwined.”

Some of the best-known writers of magical realism are Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, and Gabriel García Márquez

A few of my all-time favorites include Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Aphrodite, and My Invented Country, as well as Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.The Lady, The Chef, and The Courtesan

The Lady, the Chef, and the Courtesan by Marisol and Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin are a few you may have missed.Volver

And, of course, Pedro Almodóvar movies are a wonderful accompaniment to these books, especially Volver.

Kara

The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies

I’m still new enough at the library to brag about how great our staff is without sounding like I’m gloating. (I had nothing to do with the greatness of the group of people I’ve arrived to work with!) So I have to applaud the depth of our collections. A few days ago, I stumbled upon this great book: The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies, edited by Edward P. Comental and Aaron Jaffe.

Lebowski StudiesI tell anyone who hasn’t seen The Big Lebowski (and who will still listen to me) that it is the best movie of the last couple decades. For those not initiated into the world of Jeffrey Lebowski (aka The Dude), this is a Coen Brothers film starring Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges as The Dude, an unemployed stoner bowler who inadvertently falls into a missing person case. Not very well-received upon its initial release, the movie has since amassed a large cult following and even has its own Lebowski Fest.

And now, The Big Lebowski has its very own volume of academic essays with titles like “The Really Big Sleep: Jeffrey Lebowski as the Second Coming of Rip Van Winkle” and “Lebowski and the Ends of Postmodern American Comedy.”

If you’re interested in reading more about the Coen Brothers, the masterminds behind The Big Lebowski, the library has other books about them as well.  If all this Lebowski talk inspires you to take up bowling, the library has  books and videos that can help with that, too.

Brad