As part of some research for a Jane Austen short story competition, I reread Sense and Sensibility. Or should I say read. As I came to the bit where Marianne lies ill at Cleveland, I was shocked to find Willoughby at the front door. I don’t remember this! I thought. And then shamefully I realised that I haven’t actually read this book. I’ve just seen the film.
I wonder how often we do this? Watch the film or the television series and gradually, over time, that morphs into the book in our head? In fifty years, will everyone believe they’ve read Lord of the Rings when actually the book’s gone out of print?
I suppose the real question is, does it honestly matter? Is the book intrinsically better than the film? I personally don’t think it is, however, you will never get the same experience from both. Sometimes the book is better, like I Am Legend. Sometimes the film takes it. Personally, I think that is the case for American Psycho, though I realise that is controversial. On occasion, both are great, like The Hunger Games. Either way, experiencing one does not mean you’ve experienced the other.
I’ve been having a little think and I’ve come up with the top three authors that I believe people think they have read, when in fact they’ve done nothing of the sort!
- Jane Austen
Jane Austen’s books are a staple of British television. Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibilty¸ they’ve all been adapted a number of times and reasonably faithfully, so watching them doesn’t always lead to people reading them. Does it matter? As I’ve learned this week, it can do.
- Stephen King
The Shining is probably the most famous film that has originated from a Stephen King book, but it is very different from the film. My feelings on this have already been articulated in a previous blog, Why Kill Dick Halloran? Nonetheless, I imagine many people have watched The Shining rather than read it. I also imagine this will apply to Misery, IT and The Running Man.
- Philip K. Dick
So many of Philip K. Dick’s stories have been adapted for screen, but I’ve never read one all the way through. Sacrilege, I know. Watching his books on screen though, I do feel like I’ve read some of his work. Clearly I am a massive liar.
So which authors have you ignored in favour of the screen versions? No-one will judge you!