Books Are Better Than Movies

RecentlyI was hanging out with Rowen and we were both reading. We sat together for maybe three hours reading. Neither of us stirred. We didn’t get snacks or drinks, didn’t use the bathroom, and didn’t speak. We just read, each of us totally immersed in the world of our respective books.

Movies can’t do that.

I like movies. A great movie is, without argument, a work of art. And I don’t begin to understand the complexities of making of movie. When I think of the effort of so many people working together to produce a movie like How The West Was Won or Pan’s Labyrinth, it a wonder that movies get made at all, let alone brilliant ones.

But a movie can never transport me wholly into a world the way a book does. When I’m reading a really good book I lose the world around me entirely. I’m entirely in the story and the setting that I’m reading. When I watch a movie, I’m aware of everything going on around me. I’m a viewer of a movie. I’m a participant in a book. I can get up from reading for three hours and find that I’m suddenly hungry and I mysteriously need to pee. Those sensations never broke into my experiencve of the book I was reading. I regularly interrupt movies to use the facilities of get a snack.

It’s weird that this is true. At first look I’d assume that moves are the more immersive medium. After all, you are experiencing it with more senses. And you don’t have to translate from written word into real word actions. it’s all there for you to experience. And I think that might be why my experience of a movie is so less rich, it’s given to me.

With a book, I invent most of what I’m experiencing. Even descriptions in a book are subject to my imagination. I’ve often had quite clear pictures of literary heroes that I later realize are nothing remotely like the way they were written. I help create the world I’m living in when I read a book. You can’t do that with a movie. Movies are fundamentaly someone else’s vision.

While that vision may be brilliant or beautiful or horrific or moving, still I had no part in creating it, it’s not mine. Books let me go to a world of my imagination, and that’s a thing of great power.

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