I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that books can be generated in retrograde–extractions from what I believe to be an extremely limited parameter: movies, or even worse, a television series. Not once, have I been tempted to grab a detective novel inspired by the Monk series that graced HBO many years ago. As much as I liked Tony Shalhoub’s portrayal of an obsessive-compulsive adjunct to the San Francisco homicide division, I am in no way compelled to venture a tortured attempt to synthesize his character in literary form–since that isn’t where it started.
Same goes for Pirates of the Caribbean. Barnes & Noble may carry a series extracted from the movies that were extracted from the amusement park ride, but at least the films were an attempt to make more complex, the implicatory stories found when one cruises the amusement park ride ride in a water boat. The icons are all there–including the moment a cinematically-anachronistic Jack Sparrow is trying to cajole a recalcitrant canine into coughing up the jail keys.
But then, I came across a book the other day, A Story of GOD And All Of Us. A novel based on the “epic” TV miniseries, The BIBLE.
Roma Downey and Mark Burdett were already running with a wheel in the sand with me by the time I saw the part where Abraham headed up the mountain with Isaac to cut him to ribbons. Horribly uncalibrated, and in my opinion, deliberately warped portrayal. If I can’t trust thee people at the Genesis of their literary beer-making, I’m certainly not going to venture their literature after the hops and barley stage takes us to John the Revelator’s Patmos paroxysms.
Say what you will about the Bible, and despite my own Christian beliefs, that is not the platform from which I am speaking here. I’m speaking of the craft of writing itself. What sense does it make to distill the Bible into a miniseries,and then attempt to make a cohesive extraction from that? I know I did not buy the book, because I have this quirky, two-word axiom by which I lead my life, when presented a consumerist conundrum of such dubious, efficacious merit:
I already have a Bible. In the same fashion, I already own The Hobbit.
I also have the cinematic attempts by Peter Jackson to express that book in moving avatar. A noble effort, for sure, but cluttered, overwrought and grandiose. But the book itself is the plumb-line; the reference point. No one in their right mind would attempt to extract a book called The Hobbit from the films.
“No one in their right mind” a prerequisite to said abstinence however, is exactly why it could still happen. I certainly hope not.
Ironically, many of the (at least American) fans of the BBC Series, Sherlock, probably have the impression that the series is some radical departure from the original novels. Yet, in the very first episode, A Study in Pink (originally Scarlet in Doyle’s books), we are first introduced to Watson as an injured war veteran, having earned his leave with battle-wounds from Afghanistan. He’s looking for a roommate. We are first introduced to Holmes by seeing him frantically beating on corpses in a morgue to flesh out lividity and bruising pattern issues. JUST LIKE THE BOOK. I could go into how usually, Watson has been presented as a sort of clown or comic foil in earlier presentations, and that has been the “norm” that never was. But I don’t need to now . . .