What I Fear Is Coming (Has Come?) to Hunger Games Fandom

This almost certainly will be my last entry in the HogwartsProfessor Hunger Games Month of posts celebrating and exploring the artistry and meaning of Suzanne Collins’ wonderful Panem Trilogy. I have speaking dates Saturday at Augustana College (actually Stronghold Castle! left) and at the University of Chicago on Monday, so I will be out of pocket, as quarterbacks say, for blogging at least until next Wednesday. I leave the Marshaling of the Closing Ceremonies duties to the fair and profound Prof. Elizabeth Baird-Hardy and her associates, Profs. Kendall, Freeman, and Pazdziora. Thank you all out there for a delightful, engaging, and challenging month of conversation about these books, about the film, and the possibilities and inevitabilities of reading and film watching, in general. If I say so myself, it’s been one of our better month’s for discussion here, our best, perhaps, since the months before and after Mockingjay’s publication.

I spent much of yesterday chatting with John Patrick Pazdziora over virtual ButterBeers at the Hog’s Head pub, which conversation (really more a Q&A session about Hunger Games) he’s edited and posted at our sister site. I’ve taken one of my answers there to post here below the jump to start a conversation about a strong trend in Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games fandoms consequent to movie adaptations that I think is lamentable, if all but inevitable, namely, a change in focus from the search for and a loss of comprehension about ‘what books mean.’

The relevant John Patrick to John question:

JPP: It does seem like the filmmakers are trying to capitalize (forgive the horrible pun) on the success of the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises; maybe those fan-bases are a little older, a little readier for something more complicated, something darker and less consoling.

So, does the Hunger Games movie deliver? Is it true to the messages of the book, first of all?  And how would you stack it up with the HP films?

JG: Does the movie deliver? Oh, yeah, John Patrick, “this is some great filmmaking” (That sage observation coming from someone, as you know, who knows little to nothing about that art). I can, however, say all the usual good things about the movie many readers are saying, and with a straight face:

  • It wasn’t cloyingful faithful to text like Sorcerer’s Stone was and it wasn’t camp parody of text like Twilight was.
  • The casting was flawed, not inspired, but all actresses and actors did well, I thought, with what parts they were given to play, especially Jennifer Lawrence.
  • It was a beautiful film to watch; all the nature and city scenes were well filmed, the sets thoughtfully designed, and the camera angles and lighting done artfully and provocatively. I thought the hand-held camera bit a good choice.

Unfortunately, it is and mostly isn’t true to the messages of the book. Not too surprisingly, when Gamesmakers are given a book critical of Gamesmakers, Gamesmakers will make a film about how misunderstood and persecuted the Gamesmakers are. And that’s what we have in The Seneca Crane Story, I mean, Hunger Games, The Movie. I have gone into this in great detail over at HogwartsProfessor, which  Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again post is all over Hunger Games fandom now. They all love the film, it seems, which pretty much makes my non-falsfiable hijacking point.

Most of my argument against the film and with the growing meme that it was a faithful adaptation from the book is with the medium itself and its “hijacking” quality. The anti-television and anti-‘big picture’-media message of the novels has been hijacked, and, ironically if not incredibly (inevitably?), the minds of Panem Trilogy readers were hijacked by the film, as the books, of course, implicitly say they would be.

I never got too involved with Potter film criticism. Film adaptations served, as we say at HogPro (after Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, I think), as excellent trailers for the book. Why should I, after all? Rowling’s satirical targets were news media, especially Fleet Street papers, government, teachers, and Tories, not Warner Brothers (maybe she could write that story theme now…). I’ve written more about the Hunger Games film adaptation than all seven of the Potter movies combined, I’m betting, because these novels are largely about the intrusive, demeaning, and dissipating influence of screened images everyone watches.

Exploring this influence, I confess to wondering if I should have noted the change in Harry Potter fandom consequent to the Warner Brothers takeover of the franchise in 2002. Before the movies came out, fandom was already a large, diverse group, but it exploded afterwards and the new numbers were principally film watchers who became readers rather than serious readers that also took in the occasional film.

What happened to ‘Harry Potter for Grown-Ups,’ the original fandom serious reader home? The Hog’s Head and HogwartsProfessor will never—combined and taken up exponentially—will never have the reach or numbers that HPfGUs did. Adult discussion of the books has drawn down and, forgive me, is relatively childish. In many ways good things are being done, of course, besides dress up for balls at conferences that have little to do with the books.

The same explosive dissipation happened much more quickly with Twilight, in which fandom the movies erased altogether whatever interest there was in exploring why the books were so popular. Even the fans were happy to embrace the media meme that their favorite writer really wasn’t that good, despite their life-changing engagement with the texts. Hijacking? Yeah, I can’t think of a better word..

I see the same thing now with Hunger Games. The three books have been out for two years and sold well — but exploded after Lionsgate began to roll out its innovative and comprehensive media assault more than a year ago. See ‘How Hunger Games Built Up Must See Fever.’ Book sales exploded from 10 million last summer, a year after the series finale came out, to almost 25 million now, because of the continuous movie hype —  but what sort of readers were these folks that came on the train because of a film being advertised?

They weren’t like the ones reading Harry Potter blogs from 2002-2007, at least not these blogs we call home. Those folks {John waves to Romper Room Magic Mirror through which we see you all} were serious readers wanting to know more about books and why we love them. The fans I’m meeting at bookstore talks about Games are delighted by what they learn, but the experience of taking their favorite novels seriously is strange, new, and exotic to them rather than a commonplace, as it was in the Potter interlibrum years.

This points to one of the great backs to the movie-front, what can be called the Gable Effect. No one thinks of Rhett Butler except as dashing Clark Gable, no matter how many times they read Mitchell’s epic. Similarly, even the Amish now must know Katniss Everdeen looks like—is—Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve read the Panem Trilogy quite a few times and given it quite the going over in slow mining—and post film I’ll now and forever think of Peeta as a short guy in a Hollywood studio-cave-like cave. Not something I’m happy about, because it changes the quality and degree, I think, of my imaginative entering into the story.

If that happens to me the media-phobe having read the book a few times and discussed it at length with friends, what does watching the movie mean and do to the young person who watches TV and movies and YouTube on their iPad and iPhone with sufficient frequency to be imaginatively retarded? It’s good exercise that they read the books, I hope, but isn’t that experience only drawing up and confirming their video experience rather than drawing them into the world of the author?

Again, I used to just shake my head and say the “trailers” line; it described the growth in book sale numbers at film releases. Now I think the video-reader is a very different thinker, not the imaginative or intellectual (noetic, not academic) man or woman, but an emotive, passive reader not willing and perhaps not able to mine a text as that text invites. Which, I’m thinking now, may be a function of movie-television-mind, the hijacking by media that Collins describes and obviously laments.

Exceptions? I’ve met thousands of them. The serious readers who arrive through movies aren’t the rule, though. I suggest—as the controversial guy that is supposed to say the thing to make you squirm a little (that’s why Hog’s Head asked you to talk to me, right?) they are the tail of the elephant of readership for books become blockbusters.

End of clip. Please do read the whole thing over at TheHogsHead.org.

If you read my post on the hijacking of the Hunger Games movie, much of that isn’t news to you, but I’d like to offer this observation on top of what I said to John Patrick, as something of a question we so-called and self-styled serious readers need to ask ourselves.

I recently read an article called (Dis)Regarding the Twilight-ization of The Hunger Games at Modern Primate: The Manhood Manual by Shane Billings. It makes a long, lacrimonious lament that Hunger Games is going the way of Twilight in terms of its being packaged as romance feature and accessory laden boutique only women can visit without shame. The site where it appears is called ‘Manhood Manual,’ after all. I share Mr? Billings’ concerns but with a big difference.

That difference, of course, is that I don’t share his disdain for Twilight, which sadly means to many only that I am by necessity an intellectual featherweight. As you know, I’ve made my shaky peace with that.

What I share with this fellow is less his love for Hunger Games than concern that the Everdeen Saga fandom will go the way of the folks who loved the Forks Saga and, to a lesser but still significant degree, the Hogwarts Saga.

A movie presentation of a story changes our appreciation and experience of that story. I would say it changes it from an imaginative to a super-powered sense experience bypassing conscious filtering and integration so it becomes subconscious, subliminal imprinting, which is to say it ‘all but obliterates’ the reading experience and makes that original identification-and-transformative experience as hard to recapture as virginity after sexual congress. Film lovers who are also serious readers think this is nonsense, for the most part, but many are honest enough to acknowledge that their memory of character experience and story-line events, even sequence at times, has been changed by movie viewing.

How does this affect fandoms?

I think the hype in the run-up to movie releases and the watching of the films themselves, often repeatedly, re-directs both fans and fandoms from discussion of their reading attachment and entry to the story over to a new focus on how they experience the story-culture or community, the greater group-mind. Many who only come to the fandom after first seeing the movies, of course, cannot know what reading the novels without film images shaping their imaginative experience is like; when they and readers who have seen the movies become the predominant numbers of any fandom, as they must, the imaginative, literate aspect of the culture, save for remnant enclaves (like this one and corner rooms at conferences), is essentially gone.

[I’ll leave for your discussion whether poetic (WRock) and fan-fiction ghettoes are remnants of the pre-film cultures or vital literate forces not shaped by film images and culture.]

And that’s lamentable. Movie adaptations mean many ‘more’ in terms of membership numbers and, perhaps, much ‘less’ in terms of experience, appreciation, and depth of exchange in conversation between readers. It is no longer a shared imaginative event based on a text from an author’s vision, artistry, and language but that text as pre-packaged and digested by the Gamesmakers, invariably simplified and dumbed down versions, which are tube-fed into areas of our mind that cannot be erased. The conversation changes from two travelers who have been to a foreign country separately comparing their understanding, questions, and loves of that alocal place to two patients in a hospital room sharing notes about the nourishment each gets from their identical drip bags.

Okay, pretty harsh. But I hope you see my point.

My questions for your answering here at the end of our month devoted to book and movie musing is: “What effect does movie viewing have on your reading?’ and ”Do you think Hunger Games will go the way of Harry Potter and Twilight fandoms in becoming movie more than book focused in their understandings, discussions, and activities?’

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for a great month here at HogwartsProfessor! See you at UChicago’s Great Hall!

Comments

  1. Dr. Mellark says:

    John-
    Enjoy MY HOGWARTS – U of C is my academic home (though no longer my physical home), as soon as I saw the picture, I knew where you were. Have fun, and be sure to visit the Pub for a non-virtual ButterBeer!

  2. I haven’t been to that Pub since 1982; is it still downstairs in the vastly remodeled Ida Noyes Hall? I’ll probably go to Jimmy’s; it will be nice to walk in there legally!

    My daughter Sarah is at Chicagwarts now. Getting old!

    Back to the discussion. Alice?

  3. I think, when discussing your final question, these movies might have some slight advantages over the Potters. Please bear with me as I slightly judge why this might go further than my beloved Harry in reaching young and old in the “focused, more intelligent discussion category.”

    Potter (and Twilight, though I will ignore it from here on out because I consider it trash–we disagree John, though I consider you brilliant) lives permanently in the realm of CHILDREN’S and FANTASY LITERATURE. THEY always will.

    Those of us brilliant minds (I say it sarcastically because a) there were so many of us and b) it is ridiculous to not recognize good literature as just good literature) who saw Potter as a Fantasy Manifesto (of WONDER) could see it for what it was worth–a 7 volume set that addressed racism, propaganda, the Christian narrative, the Grand Narrative, the nazi’s, good vs. bad, Speculative magic and hoopla vs. truth, LOVE vs. the Self etc. etc.

    Unfortunately, some just could not get passed the idea of a child wizard off to school with his owl and the bullies. It was planted firmly in the world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Smurfs. The Schooldays novel facade was just too much. Even if they recognized themes, they were too hidden, too obscured. I am not saying it was right–it makes me so sad–I am just saying that this is difficult to break through. THG has a chance at breaking through.

    Hunger Games does not suffer from ANY childhood facade. It is immediately presented as a dystopian novel–which can bridge the gap from YA to Adult in a single breath. Yes–the movie missed things. Yes, the the depth was not there: but IMAGES implant. Images of injustice are always the seeds that lead to discussion. Seats at a theater will always lead to people wanting more–remember the great amazing years of fan-fiction within the Potterverse. People don’t need that here–they have all three books waiting for them (and then the fan-fiction/obsession with dystopian books will begin–already has for those who read this before the films).

    And then discussion will ensue: how could it not? Look at our political system? Our broken media? Look at the wars fought on children’s backs happening RIGHT NOW? Look at our disgusting obsession with reality tv/ 3rd person shooter games? Collin’s world feeds into the world that is so relevant today and that needs to be questioned and discussed–by both adults and children!

    It is easier to write a book describing and working within THG than any of the themes I have worked with as a Potter Scholar. The non-scholars will have an easier time spotting these themes because they are tangible–they live with them day in and day out. Dystopian settings are the SAFE space to discuss what is not safe in this world- without the pundits and sides ripping everything through a corporate or bias lens.

    I don’t know–I’ve been rambling………I am going to stop. Rethink. But this was my ramble why these books will not fall to the wayside of Hollywood–children will read them, regardless of the movies–and be impacted. SO WILL ADULTS. Sure–they will watch the movies, but between the books and the movies–images will imprint and serious readers and questioners will be created.

  4. Carol Eshleman says:

    I understand that it can be hard for a lot of people who see the films of these books (Potter, Twilight, or Hunger Games) to disconnect certain images from the film when reading the books. However, I’d like to think that all of these stories (even Twilight.. which I do like, even though I don’t put it on the level of HP or HG) are strong enough to re-hijack a reader that experiences a book after first seeing the film.

    I actually didn’t start reading HP before first seeing the first film (at which point only books 1-4 were out), but as I was reading, I kept thinking “oh, this is different than what they showed… this is way better!” and even after seeing little Rupert as Ron… book Ron kept fighting in my head over film Ron… and book Ron has always won out.

    I don’t know if any of y’all feel the same way. I think that essentially people understand that the book is the primary text from which the film is derived and see the book as the authority over whatever images the film attempts to portray. Not that there aren’t (pardon my bluntness) complete idiots out there who will go “WUH?? Somebody dun made a book from dis here mooovie??”, but seeings as so many of the reviews and such mention “based on Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novels”, I would think that some people who haven’t read the book would see the movie out of curiosity, say “hmmm… this was interesting… i should probably read the series”, and then read it and go “wow… this is what the story actually says.”

    I’m an optimistic person so I would hope that this kind of phenomenon would be happening, and I’ve had a few hopeful examples on my Facebook friends list. I would perhaps even be a little more hopeful and note that the fandoms of HP and HG are so entwined (and friendly with each other!) that perhaps even people who are thrown off by magic wands and owls would note the overlaps and go “hmm… if i could like the imaginative realm of HG and found it satisfying and so many HG fans are also HP fans… perhaps I should give HP a try”.

    I know, I know, y’all are probably saying “Step away from that bowl of rainbows and sunshine, Carol”… but when my best friend turned to me on our ride home after going to see Hunger Games and said, “You know, I really do need to read the Potter books” (and after Handel’s Messiah stopped playing in my head), I realized that perhaps Hunger Games could be, as Alice said, an approachable introduction (and lure) to the world of fantasy (i.e. “what if??”) literature the likes of Harry Potter. [Picks up spoon and dives back into bowl of sunshine and rainbows… munches contentedly] 😉

  5. Carol, I like your rainbows. I am right there with you. I said to a friend- if I am crazy for hoping Katniss leads people to Hermione, Anne, Arwen, Juniper…. Call me crazy. If I’m delusional for thinking hunger games might get people talking about social and ethical issues with a the S.P.E.W ferocity of hermione– well, this girl is going to hope.

  6. All my life, the book version has made me want to see the movie AND VICE VERSA–it’s been proven each time that a movie release increases the book sales enormously. So I tend to applaud movies for encouraging kids to read good books. As the author of a guide to names in The Hunger Games, I would one-thousand-percent state that the movie is far shallower, losing historical and literary allusions as well as characters and scenes. But that’s the way of movies, which offer more emotion, immediacy, and special effects, but less depth. Hunger Games is an interesting case, as I believe one of its best features was the immediacy and action of the first person prose style–it’s a real page turner like DaVinci Code. I knew I’d miss that when I got to the theater. Yet all through the movie, lines from the books, Katniss’s fears and needs were running through my head. So I suppose books can color movies as much as the other way around. It certainly improved my watching experience, and smoothed over a few plotholes.

    The part where the movie characters become definitive in people’s minds certainly is an issue–their photos are taking over all the fansites, for instance. But more problematically, this happened after Katniss got whitewashed. With her “olive skin” and “straight black hair,” book Katniss didn’t sound white (let alone blond as her actress normally is). They kept “dark skinned” Rue and Thresh, but even that got some serious complaints across Twitter (see http://jezebel.com/5896408/racist-hunger-games-fans-dont-care-how-much-money-the-movie-made). Nonwhite fantasy is already a minority among books, and when authors write it and it becomes popular, it still doesn’t make it onto the big screen. And certainly, yes, those movie characters become definitive (unlike Pride and Prejudice, I doubt there’ll be a Hunger Games movie made every decade or so). So Katniss has apparently gone Caucasian in an attempt to make the everygirl more acceptable. And so goes progress, creeping as ever…

  7. PotterMom05 says:

    I have found this entire movie discussion interesting, starting from about last March when things first started moving fast with the filming. I have waffled about seeing it, and I don’t think I will. I came to HP late in the game, but was still a “book first” person. Read 1-4 in one big swallow in 2001 then started watching the films. And maybe it’s because of the scope of the HP saga I have been able to pretty much separate my book experience from my movie experience. HG has been a different scenario altogether, maybe because it is so close to “real.” I can drive to District 12, I consume fossil fuels and I used to avidly watch Survivor. The world of Panem is too close, too easy to become. So, I’m thinking no on the movies. But I did say, from my first read-through, that it is right up there with Brave New World and 1984 and should be required reading for the high school government class we all have to take (though I hear it’s being assigned as young as middle school? ich) And I would not say that about the other two series under discussion for this post. In that sense, I feel that HG has longer shelf life, agreeing with Alice that because it’s not fantasy, it is more acceptable AND accessible for multiple types of reader. And it finally got my older sister to pick up YA, so I keep my fingers crossed that after she finishes the series, she’ll move on to Divergent and hopefully HP to cap it off. But I will also say that whenever I have a conversation with fans, be they HP or HG, whenever I venture into symbolism or layered meaning, it feels like treacherous ground- like I’m trying to academicize these books. So I move very slowly and see if the person is receptive to deeper readings. Does anyone else have that experience?

  8. Kathleen says:

    I am a regular reader of this site and these discussions, especially the hijacking one, is why I keep coming back. I am not a scholar, not am I anywhere as well-versed in the classics and interpretation as all of you are, but I can learn! I read. A lot. I defend movies made from books, no matter how horrible because for someone like me, it truly helps me understand a book. For example, I saw Le Miserables and The Three Muskateers productions many times. I was inspired to read the books to find out how they differ from the movies. Same with Dickens and Austen. It helps me put the framework of characters in place, sort of a Sparknotes thing. Not coming from a classical education and having read what I call potato chip books for fun in addition to tougher books, the movies helped me synthesize the stories. Having said that, I do understand that seeing a movie like Hunger Games before reading it could unfairly bias people’s imaginations, but I think the human mind/imagination is wonderfully elastic and can rise above that. Two people reading the same book do not imagine the characters or scenes in the same way because of their unique experience and upbringing-different ideas resonate with them. Perhaps it is up to those who “understand” the books to spread the conversation. My 2 cents.

  9. Kathleen says:

    Pottermom- I have that experience all the time- the last one you mentioned. I usually direct them to this site! I do have to be careful because I get so enthusiastic about it- it can be a turn-off. But I have brought several people around, some who wouldn’t read the books or wouldn’t let their kids read them because of the “witchcraft” component and my husband, who listens to them on tape all the time now(he doesn’t read fiction, never has, but this has allowed us to have a shared text). It makes our kids laugh when we use Potterisms.

  10. John,

    At the risk of sounding like an upstart (not at all my intention), what solutions do you propose for this? I am a youth pastor who works with middle and high school students and I have the constant “The book is better! You’re missing the whole point by not reading the book!” argument with my students. To a certain degree I sympathize with filmmakers who make adaptations of books because the editing process must be a constant Sophie’s Choice, but the fact is you can’t get the full effect of a book from the movie and I don’t sympathize with the filmmakers who intentionally gloss over or merely imply the main theme of the book. Yet the students I encounter repeatedly satisfy themselves with the movie. It’s like they’re perfectly fine with a Big Mac combo meal because they’ve never treated themselves to a steak dinner. But I’m afraid that we, the “serious readers” are at risk of locking ourselves in an ivory tower, abandoning the first-time-I’ve-picked-up-a-book-in-years readers as hopeless causes. What steps can serious readers take to cultivate them into serious readers?

  11. David,
    As just a side comment because all I have is my own personal experiences: I complain to my fellow classmates all the time that we are sitting in an Ivory tower that fails to realize it is reaching NO ONE (It is like Downton Abbey in my classes sometimes). I’m in an English/Religion PH.D. program (I am the only one with an emphasis on Children’s Literature (including YA) and I think I live somewhere in the middle stair-case, maybe in the kitchen (I love them though). When someone mentioned that it was already a lost cause getting kids to read seriously because a) schools are cutting english programs and redirecting them through a sociology lens/class (EKK–this makes me so sad but it is so true–In California, Lit is progressively being taught in very non-Literaturey ways and b) books are just going to be made into the movie–that is their go to (I guess they see this when they grade papers quite a bit), I started seeing red. I remember thinking that kids want good stories (the Potter phenom is an indicator!!). They gravitate towards them (so do adults). Film is the big indicator in this as well. As mentioned above by Kathleen, this can work in favor of books. It is a symbiotic relationship. It has been for years. Movie and book sales go hand in hand. In regards to how to get someone to move towards book reading, I will give my personal example. When my husband and I met (at Florida State University, Go NOLES): he would not read–at least not for pleasure. Here I was, a Potter-scholar in training (such a silly phrase) and the boy had never read the first book. When I broached the subject, his response was the dreaded,” I’ve seen the movie. I love them. Relax.” Um. I don’t relax. Well….we had long drives home. It is 8 hours to Miami. We don’t like the same music so I suggested an audiobook while we drove. Jim Dale hit him over the head with a wonderstick. It wasn’t even the same book for him as he had seen in theaters. It was like magic (a great narrator can do that). At work the next week he asked for the next book (book form!!!). And the next. And the next. And the rest is history. When we would drive home he would ask for the audiobooks–or a podcast on harry that would lead into serious discussions. It was like I had taken a confundus charm off the “least likey to read” boyfriend. He even thinks hes a bit of an expert now. If it worked with him, just introducing him to spoken world, and then there are others who are just drawn to the text after the film, there are so many avenues to see film as a gateway. On a drive to a retreat, treat your kids to an audiobook instead of a film. Introduce them to librivox (free audiobooks they can just put on their ipods). Half the books that they “could just watch the movie” for school are on librivox. I honestly see a bridge between the audiobook listener and then the book reader (for the “hopeless cases”). Update on my husband: He now reads too much and considers himself an expert on too much. I created a monster. I liked being the expert before… 🙂 Also: I owe Jim Dale our marriage.

  12. I was mostly pleased with the film. I felt that the people who adapted it understood the source material better than the people who adapted Harry Potter. When watching the Harry Potter films, I was entertained but frustrated at the fact that they threw things in, but did not explain their significance. (like how all the clues in POA tied together, or that James and his friends were MWPP). They added in scenes like Harry falling out of the Ford Anglia in CoS or Burrown burning in HBP. Those scenes were supposed to be exciting, but they took time away from more important things like Kreacher.
    They tamed things down a bit in THG, but at scenes they added could have plausibly happened from other characters’ POV (the books are told completely from Katniss’s POV). They did a better job with extras as well. I thought they messed up the ending where Peeta learned that Katniss was playing the romance to the cameras in order to survive and Peeta being upset and hurt.

  13. Carol Eshleman says:

    Martha! I just love your movie-audiobook-book concept! I think that is an awesome trajectory for non-readers. I’ve seen people who have started HP on audiobook and then ended up buying the books themselves because they realized they could read faster than they could listen. I think that especially for teenage non-readers HG is such a great lit introduction because the books are so short, they don’t really look “intimidating” to nonreaders. I mean, put the whole HG series next to Order of the Phoenix… and I bet OotP is still longer! Has anybody heard the audiobooks for HG?? I wonder how they are? I always get frustrated with audiobooks because I read fast, but I wonder how they compare.

  14. The HG audiobooks are not bad. The narrator comes across a bit dry–but I have liked them quite a bit. No one does it like Jim Dale–but they are still a good listen. Itunes gives you a snippet if you want to hear her narrate a bit (audible.com might do this as well). For classics–librivox is just a great place (itunes has an audiobook app that brings all of librivox together for free–it is just too much for me–makes me blush. They have the Anne of Green Gables audiobook and dramatic readings that are just fantastic. Anything past copyright is on there for free, ready for your listening pleasure (they are read by volunteers and some of the narrators are just fantastic). Blue app–audiobook. ENJOY!! For kids in school–all the classics at their fingertips.

  15. Kathleen says:

    Martha,
    I had to laugh when I saw your post about your husband. My husband only reads technical books and very dry dusty stuff. He is proud of the fact that he never read a book himself although he did listen in all the years I read to our kids. He wanted to understand the HP movies more(especially with the last one coming out) so he got the first book on tape and listened to it at night with an ipod while falling asleep. He is so hooked now that they are a permanent part of his rotation if he can’t sleep. Plus he makes all sorts of cool observations. He even went with me to hear John Granger speak about the ring composition!

    On another note, I sure wish I could find the British Audios……

  16. Carol Eshleman says:

    OOOO!! I’m going over to Scotland in May! You just gave me an awesome souvenir idea!

  17. First-time commenter here.

    As someone who started reading HP in 1999, just after Azkaban was released, I was sorely disappointed with the movies when they started coming. In some kind of masochistic ritual, I kept seeing them as they were released… maybe hoping hoping hoping the filmmakers’ would finally “get it.” Alas.

    That said, sometime during the HP film releases, I started to realize something. Hollywood picks some good books for turning into movies. It’s just that they tend to screw them up in the making. It wasn’t just the HP films that made me realize this, but HP was probably the first that concretized that thought for me.

    Now, there are plenty of good books to read, and plenty of ways to find them, without relying on the moviemakers to recommend them. But given that I’m now out of college, working full time, with a family… I find that using the moviemakers as a recommendation source is a highly efficient way to find books that are well-paced, enjoyable to read, yet have lots of food for thought.

    So now I have a strategy: if a movie comes out of a book I haven’t read, it goes on the bucket list. And it gets read before the movie gets viewed. Hence I have just tonight finished reading Mockingjay… without having seen the movie. This strategy also finally got me to Lord of the Rings. And The Time-Traveler’s Wife. And it’s also why, though I tried it several times as a kid and couldn’t love it and never finished it, I WILL go back and give The Hobbit another chance.

    It’s not the only way to find books (and not the only way I find my books, either), and probably not even the best, but it’s one way.

  18. Tinuvielas says:

    Thanks to all for the great thoughts and ideas, librivox amongst them, with which I wasn’t familiar yet (I’ve been relying on our local radio-station for my daily half-hour “read” literature…

    As to the questions, I’m not as pessimistic as John, for three reasons:

    1. Personal experience: My first encounter with Lord of the Rings was as a teenager in the movie-theatre, watching the animated Bakshi-film. The very next day I bought the books and read them through in a day and a night. I’ve since read LOTR countless times, and keep discovering new aspects (my perception of a book (or a play) seems to change with personal experience). The Jackson-films haven’t changed that. Rather, they serve as an introductive illustration, a sort of gateway. I confess in many cases I find it hard to enter the world of a play or even novel without this kind of visual gateway. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the movie-images determine what happens in my head when I read – usually the words overwrite the pictures. There are exceptions – “Trainspotting” for instance was a great film, but I couldn’t finish the book which I found offensive and boring (the latter also goes for Ben Hur…).

    2. Talking about illustrations: Books have always been accompanied by illustrations, in various ways. Since our culture is predominantly a visual one, as opposed to, say, the Elisabethan, it’s inevitable that the quality, or rather the nature, of the illustrations changes. Let’s face it, moving pictures (and with ever increasing speed…) are the medium of our times. The Elisabethans went to “hear” a play – nowadays we usually ‘watch’ movie-adaptions for fun or ‘study’ plays (also, more often than not that’s what an actual visit to the stage adds up to… at least here in Germany, where directors usurp the subject matter of plays all the time for their own weird ends… P). Our culture has changed, the same as language keeps doing, and it’s pretty fruitless imho to lament that. Most of us don’t read Virgil or Ovid for pleasure anymore – but at least their stories are still around! My ten-year-old son for instance loves Ovids tales (as a kid’s audiobook! – that was a good point! 🙂 So, I think one should rather focus on the power of ‘story’ as such, regardless of the medium, instead of criticising the fact that stories get adapted.

    3. Basically, I think, one needs to distinguish between different kinds of fans (who again may have different reasons each of them): 1. Readers of the book who don’t watch the films, 2. Readers who do, 3. movie-goers who discover the book afterwards, 4. movie-fans who don’t read the books. I don’t believe that film-adaption really change the way serious readers think about the books or that they keep serious readers from reading and discussing them. In the case of LOTR, the on-screen-interpretation even sparked a lot of serious discussions. The film-fans will largely remain just that, film-fans uninterested in literature; the book-only-people likewise, and as to the overlap, well, my guess is that while those who focus on the films only wouldn’t have been readers in the first place, whereas some of the others may become readers in the way described by people in this discussion. So basically it’s a win-win-situation, no? Movies do help gain a book an audience; some of those might even be interested in reading the book and/or thinking about the story. What often happens when I give lectures about Potter, Twilight and Co. is that people who clearly never thought much about the stories they love are surprised and delighted by the depth of meaning they suddenly discover. Without the movies, many of those people (“fans”) wouldn’t even be there.

    That said, of course there will also be “hijacked” people out there. I have a couple of friends who feel that watching a film overwrites their reading-impressions, and therefore refrain from watching films “first”. That’s how I handle my kids, too. People perceive the world differently, some are visual types, some are auditive types, others enact their fandom in LARPs etc.. In all these cases, people approach a text in certain, individual ways. As soon as you start to discuss a text, though, you narrow down your experience to a common denominator – and that happens also when we discuss a text here. We, too, “narrow it down”, in this case to allegoric, anagogic etc. levels of meaning – while disregarding, say, the sex-appeal of Robert Pattinson (not that I feel he has any) that may be the most important aspect of the story to a teenager. (After reading your comments on Harry Potter or Twilight, John, I’m sorry to say that these stories will never be the same to me as before…! PPP)

    All of this isn’t a problem, though, because imho it is what texts are there for: To be a shared experience, regardless of the medium. I really liked John’s example of the conversation between travellers/patients, but I think it is rather too simple, because this isn’t how conversation works. If I talk to a fellow traveller about Rome, for instance, we usually end up discussing restaurants or monuments we’ve both been to, sites we’ve both seen or experienced – and most of these will be derived from some kind of tourist-guide. Postmodernism has it that we all perceive reality through certain filters, after all… And a conversation where a seasoned globetrotter expounds on the joys of, say, the Villa Adriana while you haven’t the slightest clue what he’s talking about will be pretty one-sided. On the other hand, a decent documentary on Rome might not be first-hand experience, but will perhaps still give you a certain insight into and perhaps curiosity to see for yourself said Villa Adriana. So, while an adaption may be a filter that narrows down our text, so is any discussion, really…

    Lastly, I would like to cite my 13-year old daughter as an example. She’s not a girl willing to think about (or at least discuss with her mother) any of the deeper meanings of either Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games. “They are just books, mom, they have nothing to do with reality”, is what she told me just today… Still, these books are her favorites, and she keeps re-reading them, quite independently, to a point that she’s a lot more informed about the texts than me. Of course she’s also into the films, she’s got the posters on her wall and she never had any problem with the quality of the Twilight-films. Just lately, however, she dropped a comment in passing that delighted me: Mom, she said, I do like the Twilight films… but the books really are better. That said, she left the room, no motherly answer being required or expected…P.

    So, doesn’t that mean that the texts will prevail in the end? Even if their readers aren’t serious and don’t “get” the hidden messages consciously? Even if their first contact is only “story”, and sometimes only a twisted, amputated story at that? Or a story in pictures? I think so, if they are good texts. ‘Hamlet’ doesn’t suffer because of its sometimes lurid interpretations (although a bad interpretation/illustration may indeed turn people off for good… that is a problem). Still, good texts can be read (or watched) and enjoyed on many levels, and in many forms, by children and adults, scholars and semi-literate alike. And what readers get out of them, if they like them, doesn’t only depend on the medium, I think, but also on what they bring with them (their previous reading/watching/culture/life experience). Thus, my rather illiterate nephew (no risk of his running across these words, ever) would never in his life pick up a copy of Beowulf – but he did love the drastic Graphic Novel I recently gave him for his birthday. Is that good or bad? What about the comic strip version of Shakespeare for kids? The Twilight computergame? Of course these kinds of medium change and/or simplify the story, as does the film-adaption of HG. But on the other hand, with these extremely simplifiying adaptions you may reach an audience that otherwise would probably never come into any kind of contact with the texts at all…

    Afterthought (though I’ve been rambling too long already): It’s a bit like music, I think. There’s people who just like to listen, people who like to play, people who like to study it. The borders aren’t fixed, though. A professional violinist may like to listen to pop-music, and vice-versa. Pop-versions of classical music abound, Howard Shore’s LOTR-soundtrack has become a modern classic, and we’ve recently watched a Hip-hop-performance of Bach. Which goes to show that the same melody may be played in different ways and contexts, and that music may have different influences on different people… some of whom may even become professional musicians in the end because of their experience. Most don’t – but would you therefore deny them the simple pleasure of listening?

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