Watch the Movie, then read the Book

November 29, 2010

Back in the days of my youth–the ancient days of the 1990s–I made a great discovery. Ah yes, I remember it fondly, it was a few days after I had seen David Fincher’s Fight Club and I was wandering around the book store at my local mall. I scrutinized the science fiction section and found nothing to read. I checked the comic section and found nothing to read. I looked in the literature section and found Brad Pitt and Edward Norton staring at me from the cover of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. So I bought it and read it. And then I realized that I should always read novels after I’ve seen their movie adaptation.


I liked reading Fight Club after watching the movie adaptations because it didn’t ruin any expectations. I knew the book would be better. Palahniuk’s poetic prose was better than anything the movie had to offer. The characters were richer and darker. The themes of anti-consumerism and isolation are more focused. The book is just better. Except for the ending; I like the movie’s ending.

I tested my theory with other books and it continued to work just as well. I stumbled across Richard Hooker’s MASH. I love Richard Altman’s movie so I gave the novel a try. Once again, I loved the novel. And I never felt any frustration that the movie isn’t a direct copy of the book.

So there’s my advice. Watch a movie then read the novel. It seems counter intuitive until you realize that a copy is rarely as good as the original. Hopefully, this idea can eliminate some frustration in the future.

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