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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Should you read the book
before you see the movie?
is a New York author
Crazy Rich Asians,
soon to be a major
Tiel Lundy is an
instructor of ;lm
studies at the
I SUPPOSE CERTAIN people enjoy seeing the movie before reading the
book. For instance, if you enjoy brushing your teeth before sitting down to a
seven-course tasting menu. Or if you enjoy drinking coffee before going to bed.
Otherwise, in my humble opinion, you should absolutely read the book before
you see the movie.
Think about it. A good book is several hundred pages of rich details, character backstories and secondary plots that enhance the main storyline; a
movie screenplay, on the other hand, is around ;;; pages of dialogue built on
the barest skeleton of the original story. How many times have you walked out
of a movie confused as to why so-and-so did what he did? If you had read the
book beforehand, you’d know why Frodo defied Don Corleone’s wishes in Las
Vegas or why Fredo had to steal the ring back from Gollum in order to defeat
Sauron. (Maybe I’m getting things mixed up, but see how reading the book
first would help?)
I recently had the good fortune of visiting the movie set of my novel Crazy
Rich Asians, and it was unbelievably cool to see characters I created—like Rachel
and Astrid—brought to life by real (beautiful, sexy) actors, and places I imagined—like Tyersall Park, a hidden palace in the middle of Singapore—built as
jaw-droppingly exquisite sets. Sure, I may be biased, but I think my experience
is similar to what readers around the world will feel when they see the film.
Remember the first time the train pulled up to Hogwarts in Harry Potter? It
was impressive filmmaking, but it was doubly thrilling if you had read the book
beforehand. Even if it wasn’t exactly how you imagined, I’m sure it still took
your breath away to finally see those moving staircases and magical portraits,
and it meant so much more.
So, unless you’re the kind of person who showers before a workout, tips the
waiter before appetizers or gets married on your first date (OK, that one sounds
kind of romantic), you should definitely read the book first. C
VIRGINIA WOOLF WRO TE in ;;;; that cinema was a parasite and literature
its prey. Just three decades into the history of the moving picture, anxieties
about the perceived rivalry between these two media were surfacing. These
same anxieties persist today, inspiring passionate debate about whether one
should or should not see the movie before reading the book. An avid reader
and moviegoer, I have some thoughts on why it’s perfectly acceptable to see the
movie before reading the book.
Implicit in the claim that one should first read the book are at least a few
assumptions. First, this position assumes that to do right by the “original”
author, one must start with the book, for to see the movie first is to in some way
corrupt or degrade the subsequent reading. To be sure, any prior engagement
with the story will invariably affect how one experiences the reading, but this
need not be a bad thing; the back and forth, or “oscillation,” as theorist Linda
Hutcheon terms it, is a pleasurable experience that creates greater engagement
overall. Second, there is the widely held belief that literature is intrinsically
superior to movies (as the thinking goes, it’s older, it’s more “cultured,” it takes
greater effort and intelligence to appreciate it, etc.), and so one should always
favor the book. This position, I would argue, bestows a false sanctity on literature and levels an unfair prejudice against cinema; each is an art in its own
right. Finally, many people argue that one should read the book before seeing
the movie because the book is the original, and any adaptation is derivative,
even counterfeit. But as writers know, all stories, in some way, borrow from
In closing, consider the example of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels—two
of which have been adapted to the screen. Millions of young viewers first met
Percy at the movies, and whatever one may think of the quality of the films, how
many of these kids were then inspired to check out Riordan’s books at their local
library and even go on to read the Greek myths in their “original” form? C
AUGUST DEBATE RESULTS
Are shorter school days a
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