You Can’t Get There From Here: Why Books Are > Movies

I saw Ender’s Game tonight with Marta and some good friends. The six of us were excited – we all bought tickets online last Sunday – and we made a night of it, grabbing some beers and munchies at Harry Caray’s before piling into the Navy Pier IMAX for the main event.

Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything, and this isn’t a movie review. It’s just that, after leaving the theater, I couldn’t shake this nagging thought. So, here it is:

Books are better than movies.

I mean no offense, so before you get too worked up, know one thing: I love movies. See for yourself:

DVDs

It’s a little ridiculous, I know, but Bull Moose Records in Portsmouth made it pretty hard to resist with their enormous collection of used DVD’s at bargain-basement prices. It used to be somewhat of an issue, in fact, when I would burn one (or more) of our precious few hours during a visit home browsing other people’s cinematic leavings. One man’s trash…

Anyway, I hope this helps prove that I’m not some sort of nutty movie-hater. I also hope it helps illustrate how much I love books.

For me, it starts with the look of it. Skinny and petit or thick and burly? A squat, compact paperback, or a sprawling, stately hardcover? A bold, flashy cover, or something understated and demure? Teeny-tiny font, crammed so tightly on each page that from a distance, it might be mistaken for some Impressionist painting of a solid black rectangle, or great big block letters that remind me of the times I used Courier New to stretch a school paper to its required length?

Then I notice its feel. Maybe it’s heavy for its size. Maybe the spine is a little too stiff and needs to be broken in. Or maybe, if the book is old, the spine is cracked and loose. No matter. When I flip from cover to cover before I start reading, the pages zipping beneath my thumb, all I’m thinking about is what wonders are waiting for me inside, buried within all that paper.

By now the smell has hit me, especially if the book is well seasoned. It reminds me of the attic above my dad’s woodshed, the way those old farmhouse boards, dried by age, smell sweet and mellow and easy. Old books, like old boards, have the best nose.

One last thing (and Marta thinks I’m a huge dork for this…she’s probably right): I stamp the inside cover with my own personal brand.

stamp

I get this from my grandmother, I’m convinced. She used to write her last name in every book she owned to ensure their safe return when lending them out to friends. What can I say? I blame her.

Book stamped, it’s go time. If the author has done his job, the story grabs me and won’t let go. I forget about the look and feel and smell of the book as I’m transported somewhere else, another time, perhaps, where I can inhabit another mind.

I can inhabit another mind.

Reading a book is like seeing the world through two sets of eyes – your own and the author’s – superimposed upon one another. It’s a mutual effort, reading a book. To be sure, the author worked his ass off to write it, but now it’s up to you to breathe life into it by reading, by imagining, by seeing. Your participation is required, and participation breeds investment. You’re there, wherever there is, right along with the author and his characters, through thick and thin, for better or worse.

I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it twelve years ago, especially the ending. It caught me totally off guard, just like realizing that Verbal Kint had really been Kayser Söze all along. The movie we saw tonight wasn’t bad – it was beautiful to look at, I had no real beefs with the acting, and the screenplay was reasonably faithful to the book – but yet, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed when the credits rolled. As amazing as it was to see this sci-fi masterpiece up there on that great big IMAX screen, digital surround sound roaring in our ears, it couldn’t compare with the way I imagined it when I read the book. I just wasn’t there.

And for me, when it comes to stories, being there is everything. If I’m not there, then I’m here, and here is where I live every day.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me, but I think I hear the Starks and Lannisters calling. I have somewhere to be.

About E.T. Hourihan

I am a science fiction author pursuing his dream of publication. View all posts by E.T. Hourihan

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