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August 26, 2012

Sunday Morning Book Thread 08-26-2012: Books Into Movies Edition [OregonMuse]


Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to the underdone, yet overly spiced Sunday Morning book thread.

Movies That Were Actually Better Than The Original Books

We all know that Hollywood has a legendary reputation for taking good books and f*cking them up. Occasionally an "adaptation" is so egregiously bad that the author takes the studio to court to have his name removed from the film credits. Lousy adaptations happen because

(a) the writer is wrong-headed and/or an idiot
(b) the director is wrong-headed and/or an idiot
(c) the producer is wrong-headed and/or an idiot
(c) some combination of (a), (b), and (c)
(d) the book is such that it can't really be adapted;

So when the opposite happens, when Hollywood takes a lousy book and turns it into something really good, it's a much more rare occurrence. But it does happen.

I have three examples.

Jaws: This, of course, was Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster hit. The book it's based on was written by Peter Benchley, the son of legendary humorist Robert Benchley. With a pedigree like that, you'd think that it would be pretty good. It's not. I found a paperback copy in my high school library and, it's a turgid mess, and not worth reading

Forrest Gump: The movie is by no means my favorite, but it got rave reviews when it first came out and it was certainly competently acted and directed. Also, I thought the fake historical scenes were cleverly done. I saw a new copy being sold in an airport bookstore just before a long flight and at first I thought it might be the screenplay turned into a book, but it turned out to be the other way around. So I figured I could waste a few bucks on a cheap read, and "waste" is a good way to describe it. It was so bad, I couldn't finish it and just left it on the plane. It was mind-numbingly dull, and when I got to the part where the main character is playing in an international chess tournament (in the book, Gump is a chess genius) and the chapter starts out something like this, "My opponent played the Ruy Lopez Opening, so I countered with the Sicilian Defense", that was when I threw the book down and said to hell with it. If the author is so lazy that he's not going to do even simple, basic research into the basics of the subject matter he's writing about, he's not worth reading. But it wasn't just this one failure, the whole book up to that point was just sucky, and wasn't enough to make a long, boring business flight bearable.

Also, this provides a good example of something that Hollywood does that drives me nuts, and even though it kind of goes against my thesis, but I'm going to talk about it, anyway. We all remember the pull quote from Forrest Gump, right? "Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you'll get." In other words, life is wonderful and full of wonderful surprises. But the first line of the book is, "Let me say this: bein' an idiot is no box of chocolates." In other words, life is hard, and contains much suckitude. So the screenwriter took the words of the author, twisted them around, and caused them to mean something exactly the opposite from what the author originally intended. If I were an author, I can't imagine how angry I'd be if that were done with something I had written. It'd be like like making a good guy a bad guy in the movie (which, coincidentally, is something that douchebag director James Cameron actually did in his overrated and bloated version of Titanic and ended up having to apologize to an entire Scottish town for it).

And don't get me started on Starship Troopers.

Princess Bride: Written by William 'Lord of the Flies' Goldman, this nook is another one I just couldn't finish. I surprised to find that unlike the movie, it was mean-spirited and ugly. For one thing, I couldn't bring myself to like the book version of Westley, who was kind of an unpleasant dickhole and at one point he actually slapped Buttercup and proceeded to insult and ridicule her. And Goldman's long interruptions of the actual story were irritating rather than interesting or amusing. Looking back on it now, I think Goldman intended it to be a big, ironic joke at the reader's expense, and I either didn't get the joke, or didn't like it. Or maybe both. What a contrast this steaming pile of poo is to the wonderful movie that they made from it, which I've seen dozens of times and which never seems to get old.

Update: William Goldman did NOT write 'Lord of the Flies'. Thanks to the morons for correcting me. I really need to start fact-checking every thing I say in this thread.

Books By Morons For Morons

Moron Raymond Fiore has a new military sci-fi book out, Riley's Rogues. The next book in the series is scheduled for a Winter 2012 release.

Ray also mentions Operation eBook Drop. Authors that have ebooks available through Smashwords.com can make them available to our troops overseas at 100% discount.

Operation eBook Drop Facebook page.

As always, book thread tips may be sent to aoshqbookthread@gmail.com

Hopefully, you all have been reading some good stuff this week.

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