Random Thoughts: The Magic of Books…and Movies

Reading a book or watching a movie can be a wonderful and magical experience. A book or film can transport you from your everyday existence to somewhere completely different, to wherever the writer’s or director’s imagination will lead. When done successfully all concept of time or place vanishes, but for the journey you are on with the characters, and their story becomes your story.

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.” — Ernest Hemingway

I grew up always with a love of books. My earliest, and most treasured, memories were sitting in my father’s lap as he read to me. It was he who taught me to believe in the importance of reading – how it can expand the mind, give you a broader perspective of the world, show you a different way of thinking and enrich your vocabulary. For there is nowhere in everyday speech that has the richness or eloquence of the written word.

In a world that is technology-driven, he would lure me away from the television set by challenging me to read something that was a little beyond my years. Luring me in with the promise that the book in front of me held much more creativity, imagination and adventure than any thirty minute sitcom. Daring me to comprehend a story that not one of my friends would look at for years to come, and only then if it was on a required reading list. It was his passion and spark that set me on this quest, if you will, to devour as many books as possible.

If I read a book and come away feeling devastated if a character suffers in some way, joyous if they triumph or despondent if their misery overwhelms, then that book, to me, is truly magical. Even those stories without that level of depth, where I am taken on an adventure or for just a short time get to experience their everyday life and I come away feeling happy to have just been a part of it, are also a gift. Sometimes a light read is just the right thing to elevate your spirits.

Even film can carry you away. Sitting in a dark theater and watching the action unfold on the screen can be almost as spellbinding, although not quite to the level of a book, typically.

For although the author leads the direction of the story, filling in the details to create a picture for you to follow, there is still a certain portion of your imagination and vision as a reader that you bring to the book. And what you bring may not always match what the author intended, but it is still your mind that translates the words on the page into images in your head making that story just as much a part of you. Whether intended or not, the less details an author gives, the less descriptive the narrative, the more you get to fill in those missing pieces and bring your own life into the tale. This is why a book has the edge in books versus movies.

Movies show the vision of the director and don’t leave any room for your input. Whatever the writer, editor, director, cinematographer and others involved in creating the film envision, that’s it. It is presented on the big screen for you to see and to experience, but it is one hundred percent their creation for you to love or hate. A film allows for no personal input from viewers, and so it lacks the connection that a reader has with a book. Viewing a film is being fed the information, whereas reading a book is absorbing it and devouring it on your own. (And, just think of all those books turned into film that didn’t live up to what you had envisioned.)

But each medium, in its own way, gives you a chance to escape. You can visit faraway lands, battle demons, live in a post-apocalyptic world or simply fall in love. Books and movies offer something potentially fantastic and wonderful to store away and revisit when the everyday seems humdrum. And for those of us who are not gifted with such creativity and imagination, we rely on those wonderful writers, storytellers and directors who can make that happen.

A side note: (And yes, this does tie in to the magic of books, I just go off on a bit of a tangent beforehand.)

I know I am often criticized for my reviews – mainly for giving books such high marks that others don’t think are deserving. But I judge each book as its own. I don’t compare it with another book or another author. I feel that each author has their own voice, their own way of telling the story, and I should not judge it based on another author’s ability or style.

All my ratings are based on my view of the story alone. If I feel that story could have had a little something added that would have made it that much better, within the scope of the story and in that author’s voice, then I will adjust it accordingly. These are ratings up to 5 stars after all, and it would be impossible to evenly compare a timeless classic with a fun and flirty chick-lit novel. However, books in a series sometimes do get favoritism. If I liked one or more of the books in the series that may sway my view about subsequent books. Or if a book while not in top form has such promise and another one is on the horizon I may also judge that less harshly.

But please note, I am not writing to please the author or publisher. (Although if my review can make someone smile, then I am always glad.) My reviews are one hundred percent my own. But I am a lover of books. I appreciate all the effort it takes just to come up with a story let alone get one published. I am fascinated by each and every author’s ability to come up with their spin on an existing genre or familiar subject. And I am always excited to meet new characters. I do not start a book with a critical eye looking to judge, to pull apart and destroy. And I always remember:

“A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one; it comes as sincerely from the author’s soul.” — Aldous Huxley

But if anyone reading this is looking to blame someone for my enthusiastic view on books or what some may feel are my generous ratings, please blame my hard-working, exceptionally creative, brilliant and loving father.

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