Weekly Geeks: Books and Movies
For Weekly Geeks this week, we have been asked to turn out minds towards books and their film versions. I think this is such a broad and hot-button issue for me (and one that we’ve touched on here at LT in the past), that I’m going to save my more general gripes and praise in favor of focusing more particularly on Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.
I have a long history with Neverwhere despite the fact that, until last week, I had never read it. Not only was it one of those books that everyone and their mother said I should read and that I would love, the miniseries version of it was one of my college roommate’s favorite things. She alone championed that production and, as much as everyone else urged me to read the book, she highly recommended the miniseries version. Be that as it may, I acted neither on her recommendation nor anyone else’s. The book remained unread and the miniseries unwatched.
Finding myself in London this year, it finally seemed like the most appropriate time possible to read Neverwhere. The setting (London, as you’ve never imagined it) is of utmost importance to the novel and I could have some quality “You’re there!” reading. So I hunkered down with Neverwhere in my flat’s shared kitchen as I made cookies.
As I read Gaiman’s introduction about how the book came out of the miniseries rather than the usual other way around, one of my flatmates came in and promptly warned me that, if I liked the book, I should never watch the miniseries. It was just terrible, he claimed. This was all he would say about the book but agreed that I seemed the sort who would enjoy it and then left the kitchen, a cookie in hand. Judging by Gaiman’s professed difficulties with the production and all the things they apparently cut, it wasn’t surprising to me that the miniseries would be bad. But, still, my old roommate had loved it so much that I couldn’t just write it off so easily.
So I read the book (and it was totally amazing, needless to say) and then had every good intention of giving the miniseries a go. But then a strange thing happened. As I read the book and got engaged with the characters, the less I cared for the idea of some actors walking around as them. The more imaginative the book’s plot and settings became, the more I wanted them to remain solely in my own mind, untainted by the visual ideas of someone else, even if those ideas were Gaiman’s himself. And the more I enjoyed the novel as a whole, the less I had any desire to see it on the screen. I finished the book and realized I literally couldn’t watch the miniseries. The book was too good to be ruined by something as dodgy as a film adaption.
And the crazy thing is that the film version came first! Unlike practically every other film/book duo I can think of, in Neverwhere‘s case, the miniseries was created and then only afterward did Gaiman decide to write the novel. And yet the novel still feels like the source material. It’s the original and the miniseries is the impostor.
To tie this back around to the prompt as best I can, I think the more imaginative and interesting the book is, the less I want to see the film version. I’ve avoided the Harry Potter films as much as possible (although not entirely) for just that reason. Imaginative books stir the personal imagination more than any other kind and I treasure my own imaginings about a book too highly to dash them against the film version. Because, sadly, in my experience, as soon as you see that first opening frame, your own version is gone forever.
So far so good on the Neverwhere front: I haven’t gone any nearer to the miniseries than one misguided YouTube video watching (which totally convinced me that to watch the rest would be a C.A.A.V., or Crime Against the Author’s Vision). Although I did lose two hours of my life watching the film version of Possession lately. Trust me, where A.S. Byatt is concerned, I think its best for everyone to just leave her beautiful words on the page.
What about you guys? Do you have gripes about film and books to share? Or have you seen the miniseries version of ‘Neverwhere’?