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Friday, September 02, 2005

Wrapped Up in Books . . . and Movies

I didn't major in English in college. I majored in Radio-TV-Film with a minor in Advertising/PR. I took a lot of film classes (mostly criticism and script-writing) along with some general media industry-based classes and two internships in radio. The fact was, I was more interested in that stuff (along with my sociology classes) than my required two courses of English.

I didn't really enjoy what I had to read or write about in English 101 as I was often reading stuff that I didn't care about (The Sun Also Rises, Their Eyes Were Watching God and "The Waste Land" stick out especially). I got so sick of reading books where plots were non-existant in the traditional sense. Factoring this in with an intense focus on getting the plot, the themes and everything else in one fail swoop, I swore off of reading books entirely following graduation. So what got me into writing and reading books? Various factors.

One of the last papers I wrote for an RTF class was on Family Guy. I was a huge fan of the show at the time but I had a hard time finding more episodes to review. This was a time when the show was in limbo with Fox, so I had to find older episodes via peer-to-peer networks. I found a handful of them, watched them and wrote my paper. My argument was that the show was not a lame Simpsons clone and gave my reasons for it. Maybe because of the fact that this was a stance that I really believed in, I wrote and revised like crazy. I made my views abundantly clear and I hoped I would be rewarded for all the hard work. After years of getting B's and C's on papers like this, I got an A and I was thrilled. This was the beginning of something.

Two books really got me back into reading again: Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life and Jo Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As I've mentioned before, Our Band Could Be Your Life blew me away by how relatable it was even though the subject was about bands in the '80s. In the case of Harry Potter, I found Rowling's writing so imaginative but incredibly understandable at the same time. There were no boring plot detours or underdeveloped characters, so I thoroughly enjoyed this too.

So why is a music and film buff trying his hand at a book? I'd say the biggest reason is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Francois Truffaut's film adaptation of it. Without going into the exact details of the plot, essentially it's a science fiction piece taking place in a world where books are banned. Bradbury's book is beautifully written but Truffaut's film version makes the material sizzle. The use of color, even pacing and Bernard Herrmann's score are things you can't get in the book. However, considering that the source material is great and the director knew what he was doing, things really worked out in a visual format.

One scene in the film that really got me is the one where a grandparent is reciting a story to his grandson (it may be an uncle to a nephew, I don't remember exactly) in order for the story to survive. I felt this strong sense of understanding as to why we write stuff down, document it and pass it along to younger generations. In so many ways, I feel like I'm the younger one talking to his elders, making sure the story I'm telling is as accurate as possible.

So there you go. This is why a music fan trained in the ways of movies and rock books is trying a hand at writing a book. I don't think I could do enough justice to the material by making a film, so I choose to document it in a way that energizes me. I wouldn't rule out helping with a film adaptation down the road though . . .

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