Monday, August 30, 2010
The Book before the Film
This past weekend I read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I was thinking about what to read next, and saw that a UK survey of readers' favorites had listed Captain Corelli's Mandolin in the top 25. The provenance of my copy is memorable. It belonged to a man I sat next to on the plane. He had finished reading it near the end of a long flight, during which we had some polite general conversation, and asked whether I'd like to have the book since he was, in his words, done with it. This happened more than 10 years ago and I remember the incident because I found it so foreign that someone could so easily part with his book.
Being on partial bedrest, I've prescribed myself a list of physical "don'ts", including climbing, reaching on tiptoes and crouching. So I had to ask my husband to climb up to the top of our bookshelf to help me find Corelli's Mandolin. He looked and looked and, insisting that I had no such book, named each title in the vicinity of where this book should be. When he called out Hitchhikers Guide organized under "A" for Adams, I asked for it to be passed down to me. How fun to discover a forgotten book. (My husband patiently continued the search, and found Corelli's Mandolin under "D" for de Bernieres instead of under "B" where I had asked him to look.)
As I started to read Hitchhikers Guide (which, by the way, is also listed on that same UK survey), I realized to my dismay that I had already seen the movie a few years back. Dismay because generally I don't like to see the film version before reading the original book. Often times I am inspired to read a book after learning of a soon-to-be-released film version, just so I can read the book first, before watching the film. Recent examples include: Everything is Illuminated, The Hours and In Cold Blood, all of which I loved both book and film versions.
As expected, I had barely gotten through the first dozen pages of Hitchhikers Guide before I found myself waiting for the part where Arthur Dent is beamed onto a spaceship. I was reading without really savouring the writing, and instead kept anticipating what I knew would be the next "scene". The book was fun and easy to read -- I ended up having to put it down and pick it up again several times over the weekend, and had no problems with starting where I had left off -- but I suspect it would have been more deliciously funny if I didn't know what would be happening next in the story.