Friday, 30 March 2012

More Thoughts on the Novel Versus Cable Series: Four Writers and The Hunger Games

The Globe and Mail's television guy John Doyle, as noted earlier, claims that cable series (he particularly mentions Mad Men, have surpassed novels in story telling excellence and in fidelity of rendering time and place.

That has not gone unnoticed: the newspaper yesterday asked four writers to give their opinion, which is, as you might imagine, mixed.

Globe columnist Russel Banks also jumped into the fray. He starts his essay with the "twitterversy" that arose recently from teens who'd just seen The Hunger Games and were shocked that"two of the characters, Rue and Thresh, were black. These viewers had read the young-adult sci-fi book by Suzanne Collins, and felt that they knew the characters. Although Rue is described as having “dark brown skin” in one line (and Thresh as “the same dark skin as Rue”), they somehow missed that, and they made it through the whole book thinking that Rue and Thresh looked just like them. The fidelity of the film to the book actually enraged viewers in this case.

"The racism in the tweets is quite open and automatic, and reminds even the hippest among us of why unfiltered, instant, totally democratic expression of emotion is not always the most progressive thing to hope for.

"But just as interesting is what it shows us about how people read novels. They don’t retain physical descriptions of people, for one. We fill in the blanks when we read fiction: We do the set decoration, we do the casting. We all make, in reading, our own film of the book, and the fictitious worlds we imagine – that is, rewrite – tend to have similarities to our own."

And that is only one of the delights of fiction and the printed word. You, the reader, are part of the equation. It's not the same with television.

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