Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Bookish Dilemma: Book First, Or Movie?

Idris Elba as The Gunslinger in The Dark Tower

It's been just over a month since my last post, so I'm throwing myself on the mercy of anyone who's still following this blog. I am currently facing a bookish dilemma, and I'm hoping that readers will advise me.

My library has a book group that runs throughout the summer, and the next selection is Stephen King's The Gunslinger, first in the Dark Tower series. I love that the book group makes me read outside my usual genres, but I haven't read any Stephen King since waaay back in the 1980s when I read Cujo, which may have scarred me for life -- I went through a King phase in my youth and read most of his early stuff. I liked some of it but I'm an avid dog lover and Cujo killed any interest I had in reading any more of his works (though The Shining made for one of the best TV literary bits ever on Friends. Spoiler alerts if you haven't read The Shining or Little Women). 


But I digress. The book group doesn't meet until the end of the month, and normally, I wait until about a week or so before the meeting to start the book, so it's fresh in my mind for the discussion. However, I just saw the schedule for the upcoming movies at the movie theater nearby, and The Dark Tower starts showing on Friday. Movies here on the military base usually only run for about a week, then they come back about three or four weeks later for a second run, filling in at odd times like matinees and off-days. So if I want to watch the movie, I should try to catch it in the next week or I may lose my chance.

And this is my dilemma: do I read the book this week before I go to the movies, and possibly become disappointed because it doesn't live up to my expectations? Movie and TV adaptations rarely live up to how I imagine a story when I'm reading it, and if I see the movie later it nearly always changes how I picture it from that day forward.  I read the first four Harry Potter books before I saw the first movie (which I found fair to middling) and now I'll always picture Hogwarts and all the characters like the movie actors and scenes.

Or do I watch the movie first, then read the book just before the book discussion, like I normally do?  If I watch the movie first, I'll be picturing Idris Elba and all the other actors when I read the book. Of course, if I read the book first, I'll be prepared for any scary scenes. I don't think The Gunslinger is considered horror, but you never know with Stephen King. (I'll just make sure I have enough space in the freezer, just in case).

So here's my query: if a book is being adapted into a movie (or TV series), and you haven't read it yet, do you read it before watching the adaptation, or wait and watch the adaptation first? Does it matter? Should I just skip the movie altogether? And what are your favorite literary bits on TV shows? Does anyone really put scary books in the freezer?

15 comments:

  1. I don't have a hard and fast rule about the movie vs the book first. Usually, I go with whichever one catches my attention. If it's a book I'm on the fence about and the movie looks good, I'll often just watch the movie because it takes less time. If I love it, I may end up reading the book, too.
    In the case of The Gunslinger, it looks like the movie and the book will be very different from each other. From the preview, they seem to be set in the same world, with the same basic premise, but the story is going in an altogether different direction. That won't stop you from picturing the actors in the roles if you see the movie first, but the movie also may not warn you about scary moments in the plot. I can only think of one scary bit from the book, and, for me, it's more suspenseful scary than nightmare scary. Might still be freezer-worthy, though.

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    1. The book is pretty short for Stephen King, so if I have time, I think I'll try and read it first. I didn't realize it was going to be so different from the book, so that might make it easier to keep them separate in my mind. Thanks!

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  2. OMG, I love that episode of Friends and often reach points in books where the tension is so high, I do need to put them in the freezer for a while :) Usually, in this case, what I do is controversial: I skip ahead, find out what happened and then I go back and read up to where I "cheated".

    My rule of thumb is read the book first if you are able. Even if you have Idris in your head as the main character (not a bad image at all!), the rest of the world and characters are yours to imagine in your brain first.

    Other literary moments in TV shows - On The New Girl, there is a dating move that Schmidt calls The White Fang. I never read that book either, but I understood the concept. The I would be curious to see what other commenters come up with on this subject!

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    1. Skipping ahead, you rebel! I've never done it but it's tempting. I know this was very controversial when the last Harry Potter book came out. I was aghast until I heard a radio interview where someone basically said the same thing -- otherwise, they were rushing to find out the end and missed parts.

      I've watched a bit of New Girl, my daughter is a huge fan but I've never gotten into it. I haven't read White Fang though I loved Call of the Wild. I suspect I'll have to read it and watch the episode, not necessarily in that order.

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  3. Now I'm wondering if the freezer thing is someone's clever idea about 'putting something on ice'. (I haven't seen the episode so not sure if that's part of the joke or not?)

    I have loved & adored the Gunslinger books for nearly 30 yrs. When I gave up on other King's, I kept going on with these - although it took him AGES to finish writing the series!

    Definitely read the book first!
    😊

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    1. I've embedded a video that has all the bits with Joey and the books, so you'd get all the best parts (the rest of the episode is sort of silly). Sadly, the sound quality isn't great but it's really funny so worth watching.

      I read the introduction of the book and am intrigued even though I haven't read King in years. I'm glad he finished the series, I don't think George R. R. Martin will ever finish the Game of Thrones series.

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  4. I appreciate your dilemma. I watched the first Harry Potter movie, then read the books. I struggle with not letting my disappointments in some of the movies cloud my judgement.

    The Dark Tower series is very close to my heart. Those books actually inspired me to become a serious reader. They are very different from anything King has written. If you aren't hooked by the third book 'The Wastelands,' then perhaps this series isn't for you. I don't know if this helps, but I've read that the movie is very different than the books, as it serves as a sort of sequel/alternate version of the books. I won't say anything else because I don't want to spoil the twist of the final book.

    My advice would be to read the book first and prepare for the movie to have a very different feel.

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    1. I found the first two HP movies rather disappointing, I don't know if it was the pacing or the editing. I don't think Chris Columbus did them justice, the other movies are much better.

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  5. I almost always read the book first, but this is a special situation, and the movie doesn't have to spoil the book. I watched the first episode of The Last Kingdom before reading the book, and it actually helped me keep straight who was who--plus it was really well done and followed the book closely. My guess is that King is such a big writer with such a devoted following that they won't mess up the movie version.

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    1. I saw the BBC Bleak House and it inspired me to actually tackle the book, and though they made changes, it definitely helped me keep all the characters straight! I haven't seen any Stephen King since I watched The Stand miniseries back in the 1990s, which was very good up to the ending which was rather odd.

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  6. it would be a shame not to be able to see the film to compare them, so I guess it's really a question of when you have the time. If you can't read the book first I'd still go to the film, though as books are almost always better than filmed versions, reading it after the film wouldn't be so bad anyway.

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    1. Thanks! From the comments by people who've actually read it, I don't think it will matter either way. And what's not to like about Idris Elba?

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  7. I used to always try to read the book first...being a book purist and all... but now I'm more laid back about it. Life is short and there are too many books I want to read. So sometimes, I catch the movie and skip the book altogether. Shh! Don't tell. :)

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    1. I agree! My book group is reading Big Little Lies in a couple months and I may cheat and watch the miniseries instead --- which might take just as long as reading the book!

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  8. Thanks for this post, now I want to see the movie since Idris Elba stars in it, and I also want to read the book. Generally I prefer to read the book first but that is not a hard rule.

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