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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

May 11, 2010 at 9:17 AM

Books to movies — but why?

Final “Eclipse”-on-the-treadmill update: I finished the book, huffing and puffing, yesterday morning — all six-hundred-and-something pages of it. And . . . well, I know this book has the thankless task of being number 3 in a 4-book series, but let’s just say it: Nothing happens in this book. Seriously, nothing. Yes, a minor character or two bites it (so to speak), and a major character’s life hangs in the balance for about half a second (but come on, we know he’ll be around for “Breaking Dawn,” so it’s just silly), but essentially things end exactly where they begin. Bella is torn between the vamp and the wolf, and has mixed feelings about becoming a vampire, and has the capacity for endless dreary conversations about these subjects. “Will this ever come to an end?” (or something to that effect; I don’t have the book here at my desk) is the tagline on the back cover of the book. My sentiments exactly. On the bright side, I did burn a lot of calories reading it.
So. I did read a really good book over the weekend: “The Little Stranger,” by Sarah Waters. It’s a wonderfully gothic, “Turn of the Screw”-ish tale of suspense, set in a creaky old house in England just after the second world war. I couldn’t put it down, and finished with a real sense of regret that I had to leave the book’s world behind. And I started imagining the wonderfully scary, atmospheric movie that the book might make. (This is pure speculation on my part; far as I know this book, which just came out in paperback, has no movie deal.) This made me wonder: why do we want to see books we love turned into movies? Why, when we’ve had an enormously satisfying, rich experience reading a book, do we want to add on to that? What can the movie (even if it’s good, which sometimes it isn’t) possibly add? I thought about this, while busily casting “The Little Stranger” in my head, and concluded that it’s like — bear with me here — spaghetti bolognese. I have a recipe for bolognese sauce that I love; it’s a lot of chopping and prep work and cooking time, but I’ve been gradually evolving it into exactly what I like: a little bit more of this, a little less of that. It’s somebody else’s creation originally, but I’ve made it mine. And I also love the spaghetti bolognese at my neighborhood Italian restaurant, which is an entirely different experience — someone else’s vision, which may not be exactly mine (too much oregano, not enough garlic), but which I can appreciate as an interpretation. When a book is good, we just want more of it; we want to devour it and talk about it and experience other thoughtful versions of it, to compare with our own. Same thing with spaghetti.
Now I want, right now, to reread “The Little Stranger” and eat some spaghetti, even though it’s 9am. Instead I’m off to four movies, ending with “Robin Hood.” Should be an interesting day. See you later.

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