My general answer to “What is your favorite book?” is 1984 by George Orwell. When I was in 10th grade my English teacher gave us a book reading assignment but gave us a lengthy list of books from which we were to choose only one. I asked her for a recommendation and she recommended 1984. She said she thought I would really respond to it. This is the same English teacher who also taught my Publications class which was, basically, the group tasked with creating Waukee High’s Annual Yearbook (like Reese Witherspoon in Election!).
I hated Publications. I hated it so much I became the first and (to my knowledge) only Jayson Blair in the history of Waukee High by completely fabricating quotes for an article on class rings that I didn’t want to write. On account of that little ruse I (and I’m not making this up) got an “F” in Mrs. Hanigan’s Publications Class the exact same semester I earned an “A” in her English class. In many ways I think that little tale tells you all you need to know about who I am and how I operate in this life. If I’m in, I’m all in. I’m not in, I’m not in at all. But, sweet Lord, do I digress!
Long story short (and as already stated), 1984 is my favorite book. Like a few of my other favorite books – Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Little Children by Tom Perrotta, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – I read it quickly, consumed with this fascinated but terrified dread, knowing full well it couldn’t end well. And it didn’t. It’s what I like to call Tragic Inevitability. Oh, I do love Tragic Inevitability so. That last line by Orwell was such a beautifully constructed sucker punch I’m fairly certain it made me smile even as I could feel myself dying a little inside.
Because I love the book so much I have specifically avoided seeing any of the film adaptations. Not the 1956 version with Edmond O’Brien, not the BBC version a couple years earlier, and not the 1984 version with John Hurt and Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton that is supposed to be pretty good. People who genuinely love a book and then see it turned into a film seem to often despise it because it could never possibly live up to how it looked in their own mind. I can still remember standing outside the theater after a midnight show of Lord of the Rings: Two Towers watching my best friend smoke a cigarette and listening to him angrily tear apart every single change – no matter how minuscule – between page and screen.
It’s interesting to note two of the books I’ve mentioned both starred Kate Winslet, my favorite actress. Speaking honestly, I might not have gone to see the film adaptations of Revolutionary Road and Little Children if she had not been in them. And I often suspect my opinions about both those adaptations are entirely skewered by my immense adoration of the original material. Well, except for the grotesque – literally and figuratively – ending that Todd Field concocted for Little Children which changed something that was awesomely and depressingly oblique into something pathetically sensational. Fan of the book, not a fan of the book, you can’t tell me that was a good idea. Then again, if I hadn’t read the book maybe……
Well, lo and behold it sounds as if 1984 will be returning to the big screen yet again with, of all people, graphic designer Shepard Fairey, the mastermind behind Obama’s Hope poster, orchestrating. It seems to be in the very earliest stages and potential cinematic productions run aground out there in the swirling sea of Hollywood all the time, so who knows? Perhaps this will merely remain an idea. But if it doesn’t, I will avoid it. I will stay home, and I will let Winston’s last line ruminate in my head precisely the way I want it to.
Unless, of course, Kate Winslet plays Julia. In which case, I’m screwed.
WHAT ABOUT YOU? DO YOU PURPOSELY AVOID MOVIE ADAPTATIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS? OR DOES IT NOT AFFECT YOUR?