Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Please Hollywood, leave it alone.

I was a "non-sporty" child, slightly nerdy, (which in the days before computers was unusual), solitary and cylindrical , I loved to read.

Many of the books that gave me pleasure then are still on my bookshelves and are regularly re-read. "Little Women", "The Hobbit", all the Narnia series, Jennings, Cynthia Harnett and Rosemary Sutcliffe, but the favourite of all was a battered copy of "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge. It was my mothers, when she was young, a present from her Grandmother in 1946. A first edition no less, printed when all books were published under the "authorised economy standards". A book was a luxury in those days and treated with respect.

This copy is now shabby and faded, the pages have that soft powdery feel and it is well foxed, but none of that makes any difference to the story. A little girl, orphaned, is sent to stay with her Uncle in a beautiful but sad house. As she learns the story of her family and determines to solve what she sees as misunderstandings and injustices, we are drawn into the archetypal world of good and evil, joy and sadness. There is no escaping the fact it is a Christian allegory, although as I child I read it in blissful ignorance, it draws you in .

Then Hollywood got hold of it. I should be pleased. A book that is not high profile chosen for adaptation by a studio with thousands, millions, to spend on a production. But my heart sank, I was afraid they would not be able to retain a charm and gentleness the book has. There would be special effects, drama and derring do. There was; we had black leather clad baddies, more hippy crystals than you could shake a stick at (this was obviously the way to dilute the Christian element) a re-enactment of the Guinness advertisement with the Sea-horses and no geraniums. (When I was at the cinema I had the added bonus of a small child trying to remove my kidneys through my seatback with her feet, but I can't blame Hollywood for that.)
It wasn't my story anymore. It wasn't my childhood. They had made an entertaining film that all the children in the cinema, those not headfirst in their popcorn anyway, seemed to enjoy, but it was a lesson for me. If there is a book that you love, really love and the film studios get hold of it, be prepared for your illusions to be dashed.
No one can make better memories for you than you.

(This will not stop me going to see "Where The Wild Things Are", I never learn)


Anonymous said...

Your tweet is so accurate it makes me so safe to re read much loved books. Just last week I purchased Jennings and am looking forward to some serious comfort reading over the coming weeks.

As for Hollywood I think you are right. it can never do our favourites justice with its often sledgehammer approach to film making.

shayma said...

really interesting, i didnt know this was a Christian story.

Hollywood just doesnt do justice to any of our childhood books, does it? Now they are coming out with Fantastic Mr. Fox. grrrr

hugs. xx

Sabine said...

No way am I going to watch 'Where the Wild Things are', I won't let my childhood memories be destroyed! Sabine x

Angela Montague said...

I have just read this book for the first time! I love the colour illustration you have reproduced; my edition has none. Please let me know the artist if you can.

Her descriptions were amazing. She really enjoyed all the little details of things. The book has put a lot of dreamy images in my head, and I'm grateful for that.

Sorry the film dissapointed, I have not seen it but I am sure I will with my children at some point. I wonder if anyone who loves a book has found the film equal to it?

Brother Tobias said...

I was a Rosemary Sutcliffe fan. It wasn't until my mother wrote to her about 'The Eagle of the Ninth', and had a very charming but laboriously written letter back, that I realised she was coping with such chronic ill health.

Hodmandod said...

Just read LWH to nine year old son. He wanted me to start again at the beginning. I CANNOT go to the film, I know it is terrible and glad to read confirmation here. On the other hand Where the Wild Things Are was very interesting indeed. Left me feeling as if I had experienced something worth experiencing.

Eva Maria Chapman said...

As a result of your tweet re 'The Little White Horse' I bought it. My husband is reading it and loves it.
Did you ever see Wild Things? My favourite story to my grandchildren

sanjeet said...

I think you are right. it can never do our favourites justice with its often sledgehammer approach to film making.
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