Monday, June 1, 2009

The Cat Thief

My two favorite writers are Jose Saramago and Haruki Murakami. Since I'm an aspiring writer myself, I've been thinking for a long time about what it is that makes these two so much more enjoyable to read than anything else (for me). What sets Saramago and Murakami apart from the Nicholas Sparks' and Maeve Binchy's? (Note: no offense if you like Nicholas Sparks and Maeve Binchy. Surely, there is a time and place for almost any author out there. Nicholas Sparks and Maeve Binchy are just popular authors whose works I happen to not be crazy about and who were the first to come to mind.) I'm still kind of working out the answer, but I think what I love most about both Saramago and Murakami is that they are amazing salesmen. They can each take a bizarre character or subject and make it work. In Saramago's "Blindness," (probably still my favorite book ever) an entire city goes blind. This is not an easy thing to sell at all, but he does it. He puts everything he has as a writer behind it and completely convinces the reader that it's plausible. In Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore," there is a character who goes by the name "Johnny Walker" who kidnaps cats, cuts off their heads and freezes them, and sucks their souls out of their body. I really feel that with anyone else writing that book, the character falls flat and doesn't work. With Murakami's conviction behind it, "Johnny Walker" becomes one of the best characters I have ever come across in literature. In my opinion, the reason so many movie adaptations of books fall flat is that they can never convey the force behind characters that an author can convey in a book. That is why everyone says that the movies never add up to books. Good authors know how to convince a reader and a good director knows how to convince an audience. Each are masters of their own medium. But if a good director tries to imitate a good author's work, it's just not going to happen. It would be like Van Gogh trying to imitate Picasso or vice versa. Van Gogh has some beautiful work, but only Picasso can paint a Picasso. I think that's what director's don't get. The movie adaptations that work the best are the ones that are not afraid to stray from the plot and take liberties that allow the work to cross over from effective words to effective images. A movie that remains hell bent on sticking to the book it is trying to replicate is almost always doomed to fail.

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