So we have come to the end of the serialization of another one of my bestsellers that no one ever bought, and which has become obsolete in the twenty years or so since I wrote it. It was an adventure to write Ranunculus to You in the Days when research demanded at least cabfare and a bus token, and it might be fun to do over now that I can look at four times the flower language books via the Interwebs. But, to revert to vegetable vernacular, I hate to chew my cabbage twice.
It may worry those of you who follow this column to see us finish off another book, but fear not! I have numerous books in my portfolio, and, fortunately, at least one more nonfiction bestseller I can serialize before I consider whether or not to resort to printing here some of my novels. You will have some time to brace yourself before I push you into the fictional worlds of such undiscovered classics as “If Life Isn’t Worth Living, What Is?” or “The Hands of the Hen.”
The book I will foist on you in the Monday blogs for a while now labors under several handicaps. I never got as far as acquiring the rights to any photographs involved, for example. But nowadays we have the Interwebs, and as the book deals with cinema, you can easily rush online and look at the movies I’m discussing, so that lack will not be felt TOO much. (Some of the movies were easier to buy on videocassette than they are now, for some reason. Life is like that: when one window opens, another one shuts.)
Another defect in the book is that I never got around to writing a deep, philosophical examination of the main theme of the book, which is the adaptation of books into movies. (I was honestly hoping my publisher would hire a Big Name—that is, someone who knows something ABOUT cinema—to write that.) I will summarize my thoughts on that subject now, just to give you a hint of what is to come.
I agree with a genius whose name I have unforgivably forgotten, who was asked by a reporter what he thought of what Hollywood had done to his book. This chap said his book was right over there on the shelf; no one had done anything to it. There was a movie made with the same title, and some of the book showed up in the film while other parts didn’t, but nobody had done anything to his book.
The basic fact is that a book is a book and a movie is a movie. A novelist can make eight months pass in three paragraphs, but you can’t do things so easily on the screen. (You at least have to fade from a green forest to a snowfall to show it’s winter now; even that takes more time than reading three paragraphs.) In the films I examined, one which worked very hard to put every word of the text onscreen was among the worst versions available. A scene that is fun to read may take way too long to watch. At the same time, scenes of great depth can be shown in a theater which would slow down the book if those nuanced movements of the characters had to be set out in words.
In short, a story can work in both media, but one needs to understand what works. If you have seen any really bad movie versions of your favorite books or awful novelizations of your favorite movies, you get this. That’s about all I have to say about that, which proves there are things you can do quicker in a blog than if a Big Name gets to expound on a subject.
Another shortcoming of the book is that it deals with, well, a kind of movie a LOT of people don’t like to bother with. I shall always cherish the remarks of one publisher’s volunteer reader, who wrote “I don’t know why anybody would even read this, much less BUY it!” I have seen reference books which rate movies give individual movies in this book a top rating, only to leave them out of a wrap-up listing the best films because, well, it’s That Kind of movie, and no one’s going to want to see it anyhow.
I had great hopes for this book. I honestly thought it would provide a new way of studying movies, and that other people would take the same idea and, using different movies, do the same sort of thing. Now the book is obsolete because other movies have come along in the (egad) twenty-four years since I wrote it. But maybe we can have fun with it starting next week. If not, I guess there are one or two other things you can look at on the Interwebs.