On A Vessel of Words

Back on my group on facebook this week, someone posted a meme:

I think I scored 2 — though I might have missed another one — because I’ve never written a bad review in my life. And no, it’s not a matter of being afraid of being vulnerable for retaliation. I’ve never done it — the same way I’ve never done most sh*tty things in life — not because I’m a stellar human being, but because I’m LAZY.

Unless a book pisses me off, and then I ALSO rant to my husband about it, mostly I dislike a book, I stop reading it, and (since these mostly electronic days, I can) I RETURN it.

And I’ve never in my life thought a movie was better than a book, but that might be because some movies I never read the book. (Princess Bride. I hear it’s a kissing book?)

But reading that long list, one must ask: what is it about books that makes people take substantial portions of their lives to read?

Well, in my case, I can’t say it’s just story. I’ve derived great enjoyment from paleontology or biology books, and occasionally from popular works on the other sciences.

However in general…. Yeah I read stories.

So, why do I? Why go to bed and then stay awake for hours, finishing a novel, only to be a sleepy mess all the next day?

Mostly, because it’s the closest I can come to being someone else.

Mind you, at my time of life I don’t have many problems with who I am. Where I am… well, in the age of the covidiocy that’s something else.

So why do I want to experience being someone else?

Because the world is vast, and I’m small. The history of the world is vast, and I’m mortal and limited.

Within the pages of a book, upon a vessel of words, even I at 58 and not in the best of shapes can be anyone, real and imaginary. I can sail the seas of the golden age of sails with Captain Morgan. I can have midnight duels in Paris with Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

And that’s not counting all the places that haven’t ever existed in this our limited universe. This morning, while cleaning out the laundry room, (don’t ask) I got caught in an illegal rally, in Luna, under Earth Authority, riding along in the mental space of Manuel Garcia O’Kelly, a former ice miner turned computer programmer/mechanic (with the help of #3 arm.)

I’ve gone to a China that never existed, spent time in Earthsea, (there are only three books. Pity) , I’ve crossed an hostile planet with that noted fop turned warrior, prince Roger, I’ve visited a fantastic jungle with Tarzan, I’ve lived for quite some time in Ankh Morpork.

In fact I’ve been so many places and had so many adventures, and been so many people that I’m forgetting a lot of them, even favorites. So you know–

What makes me read so much?
Because it makes me infinite.

And those who seek to dictate that you can only read (or write) what you are and what you’ve lived are cruel children, cutting off the wings of birds, so the birds will be earth bound like the children themselves, who are — in the end — extraordinary morons.

I don’t want to cut anyone’s wings. I want, in fact, for everyone to grow wings, even if only once, n the confines of a book.

Come fly with me.

34 comments

  1. The reason I’m writing is the extraordinary morons f-ing over all the books I used to read. 😡

    But now I get to nuke Cthulhu from orbit with a starship drive, and ride a Bolo through the gates of Mordor, so it’s worth the effort. Always thought that squid was too big for his britches.

    Thanks, morons!

  2. Come fly with me,
    to the stars.
    Let’s find out what spring is like on,
    Jupiter and Mars….

    K, somebody needs to do scifi romance collection around that theme. 😀

    1. It’s my favorite song for Dan to play on the piano for me. If I go before him, which is likely, he’s promised to play it at my funeral.
      Just like older son promised to sing Wayfaring Stranger

  3. Movies that are better than the book:

    Die Hard. The movie was way better. The book was grey goo, with the McClain equivalent character spending most of it wondering if the terrorists were any worse than the business people they were killing (and yes, he specifically included the Holly equivalent in that category). I could easily rant for pages on this subject, so I should shut up now.

    I’ve heard that a number of the Twilight movies were better than the book, but having never seen the need to either read or watch Twilight, I can’t opine directly.

    The Godfather is one that I’ve often seen cited as being better than the book, but I disagree, if for no other reason than Kay. She was much better realized in the book, as a woman who knew exactly what she was getting into by marrying into the mafia and chose to do it anyway.

    1. See also: Phillip K. Dick.
      The movies were more tightly focused, and invariably better for it.

      Steven King’s Apt Pupil. The short story was extremely meh. The movie (with a completely different ending) had punch.

      1. Speaking of Stephen King, he needs to get on his knees and thank Kubrick for what he made out of The Shining.

        And that true-to-the-source-material miniseries in the 90s was an embarrassment.

    2. “Babette’s Feast.” The movie is a transcendent meditation on the Eucharist (in a completely secular way). The book (well, short story…) is a piece of socialist twaddle. It’s a miracle the movie was carved out of that lump of dross.

    3. Legally Blonde. The novel (by Amanda Brown) was dreadful. The movie was infinitely better.

      Coraline by Neil Gaiman. The movie was better, especially in how the other mother was portrayed. She was both creepier and more seductive.

  4. IMO the Expanse TV series is WAAAAAY better than the books.

    The books (I’ve read the six mains, tho the last three were mostly a slog, and I found the side stories dull to the point of completely unreadable) tend to dwell on setup and irrelevant shit, skip over the action, then summarize what happened. (So we’re told ABOUT the story rather than being IN the story.)

    The series (far as I’ve seen, I’m through S03) does the opposite — skips all the boring crap and concentrates on the propelling events. And does a better job with characterization.

    But yeah, that’s an exception. And television, which has more scope than a two hour film.

    1. Most TV adaptations have a better chance than movies to adapt a book. Oooh! Good Omens is a great example—the TV series almost feels more like the book than the book does! This is because Neil Gaiman was able to bring in a bunch of extra information that he and Terry Pratchett had discussed, or floated for a theoretical sequel, but were unable to accommodate in the book itself. So while it’s extra information, it still has the feel of the original, because that’s when they conceived of it.

  5. Infinite. Yes. And writing is much the same.

    And the Princess Bride movie is awesome, and the book adds yet another layer of humor on top. Highly recommended.

  6. Bladerunner (original) vs. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I liked the movie better than the book, BUT I also realize that they are two different stories, so that might not count.

  7. I’m confusing myself, and I have to keep referring back to the list. I keep thinking.
    “I’ve never done THAT!”
    and then I remember that time I did.
    I have written bad reviews, which is to say, excoriating reviews of books deserving a toss across the room. Sadly, I have also written poorly executed reviews of well executed books. Early on, I reviewed one of Peter Grant’s books as if it were performance art. I DID go back and fix that one, though.
    The movie “Forrest Gump” brought me to tears. The book brought me to meh.
    My cat, Pitty Sing, derives her name from a character in the G&S opera “The Mikado,” but the name of the grandmother’s cat in “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” is Pitty Sing, and since she causes the wreck that leads to …something, yeah.
    My BEST shot at getting a point is:
    “Turned down an invitation so I could read”
    because once everybody knows just how dedicated a bookworm you are, you don’t GET invitations in the first place.
    But then I remembered wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say no more! that there are invitations, and then, there are OTHER invitations, and yes, I may just have let one or more of the sweeter invitations go by, without paying as much attention as I should have.
    Sigh.
    So, my score is at best 1, and maybe 0.

  8. Never have I ever:
    Dog-eared a book
    Failed to return a borrowed book
    Lost a book

    (Unless “lost” includes being destroyed in a flood, boxes mysteriously going missing from a moving truck, hidden by children, etc.)

  9. I don’t write bad reviews, except for specialty publications, because it is my opinion the only purpose for bad reviews is to highlight the brilliance of the reviewer, and I don’t need to stroke my ego that way. I’d rather write reviews that recommend reading a book. If I can’t recommend it, I find another book to review. There always seem to be more books than reviews I can write, so it works out nicely.

    I -will- write a negative review in specialty publications. For example: a review of a book on model-making for a modeling magazine if the book contains information that is flat wrong or dangerous. I feel obligated to point out using an airbrush in a space with inadequate ventilation is ill-advised – even (or especially) if the author says you don’t have to worry about ventilation.

    1. I have to disagree with that assessment.
      It happens. (A lot.)
      But the purpose of a review is not to puff up your feathers and have people look at you in admiration.

      I’m sure I’ve written “bad” reviews that sold books. (Heck, I’ve intentionally written “bad” reviews for the purpose of selling something.)
      A review is information for potential consumers. What is this thing? What does it try to do? What does it successfully do? What did the reviewer think of it?
      There are things I’ve hated that I’ve given “good” reviews, and things I’ve loved that I’ve given “bad” reviews.

      Toss-off example:
      Alpha Protocol is a bad game. The skill system is horribly unbalanced, the combat system broken, the level design is poor in general and often deliberately flawed to place the player in unviable situations, the introduction and first few levels are uninspired, the mechanics poorly explained, bugs run rampant, the boss fights aren’t even close to fair, and the “flashback” portions of storytelling runs into the problem that one of the first things you likely did was alter your character’s appearance, so it’s not immediately apparent that your character is being interrogated, and that this is happening after the first five chapters of the story.
      That said, if you’re a certain type of gamer, it is absolute crack, and you’ll play through it multiple times.
      The story is good (if you like spys and assassins trying to backstab each other over personal agendas in the dark while trying to cause/thwart a major geopolitical shift), the characters strong (if unreliable), the setting immersive, every character and organization has secrets and motivations you can leverage, discovering one thing often means giving up the opportunity to discover another during they playthrough, and everyone’s plots are bouncing off of each other in unpredictable ways.
      The first playthrough, you’re a pawn trying to thwart a major threat while desperately trying to keep your head above water. By the third, you’re the puppet master, those trying to use you are the pawns, and you realize the rabbit hole goes much deeper than you ever imagined. I’m an obsessive lore junkie, I’ve played the thing through at least five times, and there are still things I don’t know. (Including an optional boss fight that many players seem to trigger on their first playthrough. And I have no idea how. But I do know that a spoiler posted as a major revelation at tvtropes was actually a false cover story. And learning the truth makes a whole lot of things take on a completely different light…)

      1. Tom Kratman used to post some of his bad reviews on his web site. They were so over-the-top they persuaded a friend to go to Amazon and click “buy” on several of the ones mentioned.

  10. I named my pet after a song not a book so I guess I can award myself one point. I like the Princess Bride movie better than the book.

  11. Lost a book? I’ve had many disappear from my shelves, one of the major downsides of letting your children learn how to read.

    Movie better than… Man From Snowy River but a large stretch as it was based on Banjo Paterson’s poem, not a book.

    Dogeared? Many a pocketbook, probably more than a few Astounding pulps, never a hard cover.

    & should be on the list; reading while eating. As a callow youth that often got me in trouble with those learin’ me my manners.

  12. > And I’ve never in my life thought a movie was better than a book,

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers? A Clockwork Orange? Planet of the Apes? The Omega Man? Any of the PKD adaptations?

  13. I scored zero, though it took me a while to think of a bad book review (it was for a big name author). I have a short list of movies I enjoyed better than the books they’re based on:

    1) I’ve read The Princess Bride. The movie is better
    2) Die Hard, as others have mentioned
    3) The Iron Giant, which is so dissimilar it’s almost unrelated (it’s also one of the best animated movies ever made, IMO)
    4) The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982 BBC production with Anthony Andrews & Jane Seymore)
    5) Stardust (Neil Gaiman), though this is really more of a tie
    6) Logan’s Run
    7) Planet of the Apes

    Your mileage may vary.

    1. Stardust was…wow! Robert diNiro as a can-can dancer, Ricky Gervais as a nasty peddler. I wanted to clone myself so I could marry Clair Danes! And the kibbitzing dead ghost brothers! Didn’t even know it was a book. Now, have to get it.

  14. I’m kind of lost here, on how to score myself. I have named a pet after a book character – a cat named Bagheera, and was dismayed at how few people that I shared this information with, replied at once, “Oh, he’s an all-black cat, isn’t he?” I have met at least two authors personally – Scott Zesch and Paulette Giles. I have written bad reviews of books, although I would prefer not to have been suckered into reading the darned books and wasting my time with them in the first place. And I have lost books – through having loaned them to crooked and unreliable people. And I have never joined a book club, or dog-eared a book. That’s what small scraps of paper are for…

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