Monday, September 19, 2011

Currently Reading: War Horse (1982) by Michael Morpurgo

We won't be seeing Steven Spielberg's War Horse until December, so in order to prepare, I've decided I'm going to read Michael Morpurgo's 1982 children's book of the same name in advance. This will be an interesting experience because, in the case of Spielberg's films, the only time I can ever recall reading the book before seeing the movie was when War of the Worlds came out in the summer of 2005; I had made sure to read the H.G. Wells book first. It's funny because Spielberg isn't particularly thought of as a "literary" director criticized for his adaptations of certain books. Unless, of course, your name is George Jonas.

One might ask, "Why spoil a perfectly good Spielberg movie for yourself? Don't you want to go into the movie without knowing what happens?" True. And after all, War Horse is a children's book; it's not like it's supposed to be high-class literature or anything. At the same time, I will always regret my not reading The Color Purple or Schindler's List before checking out Spielberg's adaptations of them. Don't get me wrong: they're both wonderful films (especially Schindler's List, which -- as everyone knows -- I'll defend to the death). But by the time I finally picked up the Alice Walker and Thomas Keneally paperbacks, respectively, the images from Spielberg's films had already colored my perceptions of the stories. I don't think that's exactly what Walker and Keneally had in mind. Like any other literary giant Spielberg has collaborated with (a list that includes Richard Matheson, Peter Benchley, J.G. Ballard, Michael Crichton, Phillip K. Dick and Frank Abagnale), they relied on their readers to visualize their stories in their imaginations, and could only hope that Spielberg would come close to those visions. That's why the mediums of movies and books have remained friendly with each other for so many generations now. It's, like... an understanding, you know?

Another reason why I'm reading Morpurgo's book in advance is because I won't be getting to see the Tony Award-winning play that's making the rounds on Broadway as we speak. For some reason, the play isn't coming to St. Louis, so... yeah. I'll be sticking to the book.

But I guess the most important reason why I want to read the book/know the story in advance is because I don't want to be the guy who sees the movie in December, then gets in debates with devotees of the story and can only muster up a defense of, "I didn't read the book or see the play, so who cares about either when the movie's so good?" It's a Spielberg release, after all. We don't get as many of those as we used to. I won't take it for granted.

To keep up with what I've read from the book, over the next coming weeks I'll be uploading one post for each chapter, summarizing what I liked about each one. Quotes from the text will be included.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on this luminous theatrical trailer...

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