Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Favourite Book

Vicki here.
Charles mentions that his favourite book is the Maltese Falcon. I’ve never read it, perhaps I shall one day. I have seen the movie and thought it was boring. But, of course, one shouldn’t judge a book by the movie version.

My favourite book of all time is The Lord of the Rings. I’ve loved it ever since I first read it somewhere back in the mists of time. I’ve probably read the book twenty times. I loved the movie adaptation, and thought they did a super job (with the possible exception of some parts of the Two Towers). I saw the Fellowship of the Ring in the theatre nine times. I was at the midnight showing on opening day for the Two Towers and Return of the King. This is a big deal for a person who averages one (1) movie a year. Sometimes two (2).

I’ve been wanting to read the whole thing again for a long time, and bought myself a new boxed set before hitting the road for Alaska and Bouchercon, thinking that I’d have lots of time to read on the long lonely nights in motel rooms in the back of nowhere. And I did. It was interesting to read the books now that I know the movies so well. Yes, I’m a nerd, and yes, I can quote lines and passages. What I appreciated, rereading the books, is how well the movie used the language from the book, even in quite a few cases moving the words from one scene to another and putting them in someone else’s mouth. For example, if you remember (and I’m sure you all do) when they are about to enter the Paths of the Dead Gimli says ‘the very warmth has been stolen from my blood’. In the novels, Bergil, who shows Pippin around Gondor, says those words. But they worked perfectly for Gimli, and Bergil doesn’t have a part in the movie.

Reading the books again made me think also about pacing. About how books have to be paced much differently than movies. They are, of course, completely different medium and I think that many movie adaptations fail when they either try to recreate the book, and can’t, or miss the point and the subtleties of the book trying to stuff the plot into a movie. For example, in the book, 17 years pass between Bilbo’s party, when he leaves the Shire and the Ring, and Frodo beginning his journey. In the movie, it looks like a week or two. In print the author can slowly explain what’s happening over those 17 years, but to keep to the much more frantic pace of a movie, they had to speed it up. In the movie, the Hobbits are chased out of the Shire by the Ringwraiths, running for their lives through the fog with much yelling and dramatic music, swirling of garments, and screaming of horses and Wraiths. In the book, Frodo looks back to see that they have been followed to the Ferry. And it works: I remember finding that scene incredibly frightening when I first read it.

Charles wishes he could write like in the Maltese Falcon. I guess I should be happy that I can’t write like J.R.R. Tolkien. I love passages such as this: At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgul, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom.

How about this. At the urging of the cell phone, turning the wheel with a rending cry, in a desperate race she drove, faster than the Indy 500, Molly Smith, Constable of Trafalgar, and with a lightening flash of red and blue lights, she sped northwards to the doom of the bank robbery.

Guess not, eh?

Or: “In that hour of trial it was love of his master that helped most to hold him firm.”

“In that hour of trial at the bank robbery, it was love of her Sergeant that helped most to hold her firm.”

People would definitely get the wrong idea about that one!

I’m about to start the day’s work on the second Molly Smith. I have a feeling that my prose might start to turn a mite purple.

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