The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Books Are Always Better

I will let it be known I am an unapologetic Baz Luhrman fan, and it’s not just because of his affinity for sunscreen*.  I do not necessarily love everything he does, but I love the fact that he takes “boring” pieces of classic literature and revamps them for newer, younger, modern audiences.

…but, but, but they didn’t have guns in Romeo & Juliet days.

Slow down, Romeo & Juliet were people, not a time period.

…but guuuuuns?

Google: Spanish Conquest of the Aztec Empire

Google: What year was Romeo & Juliet written?

Google: matchlock

Okay, but, Tybalt was packing a gat.

Yes, they were also driving cars.  And wearing suits sans codpieces.  Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here.  This is something that was written to be performed, interpreted, and enjoyed by the masses.

But what about books?

Luhrman’s take on The Great Gatsby was inspired by and based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It is not the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The book is better.  The book is always better.

The Harry Potter movies have grossed over 8 billion dollars.  The books are better.

The Shining still has me scared of Jack Nicholson; the book is better.

Fight Club inspired a generation of men raised by women.  The book is significantly better.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, or To Kill a Mockingbird – great movies; better books.

The books are always better**.

In my younger and more vulnerable years I would often rail against the movies simply because the books were better.  As if they were supposed to be equal or, truly, even be the same thing.  A movie is a movie and a book is a book.  And a book is better.  A movie is for the masses.  A book is for you.

Magic does exist in our world.  It exists in the words of the poets, in the ability for those words to convey meaning, purpose, and understanding in a personal and individual way.  A written word, once read, gains life and existence inside your head.  Your head.  Yours alone.  No “they” could ever make that into a proper film.

Yes, Fitzergald’s work is better than Luhrman’s.  Obviously.  It is also better than the five other films that have tried to capture his immortal masterpiece.  It will be better than the next iteration of this movie as well.

I understand if you don’t like your narrators to step outside their role for the sake of a framing device***, but trees, please meet forest.  This was a work based on the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It was not The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

If you’re distracted by the glitz and annoyed by the spectacle, good.  Welcome to Gatsby.  Haven’t you heard?  Jay Gatsby is spectacle.  He is style.  Gatsby wins because the other team can’t stop looking at the pinstripes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie; the book is better.


* See this post: to understand my affinity toward sunscreen

** The only exceptions to the books are better rule are Forrest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption.

*** Non-spoiler, spoiler-alert – Nick Carroway exists outside the novel for the sake of the movie.  An interesting idea that was poorly executed.  If you haven’t seen the movie, quit reading… this device would have worked, in my opinion, if the non-Fitzgerald-written dialogue with the doctor was cut and he was in an apartment rather than a sanitarium.  That is all.

About Jamaal

Lover of words, liver of life, director of theatre, keeper of keys and grounds at Hogwarts. Twitter: @JamaalAllan

4 comments on “Books Are Always Better

  1. Cassie
    May 22, 2013


  2. Pingback: QOTD – Your Favorite Poetic Prose… | The Poetry Question

  3. I heart Baz too. Love this post, though- so very right.

  4. Daniel Budiarto
    June 4, 2013

    I agree! Although Life of Pi is 50/50 for me. The story is still better in the book, but sometimes Martel had me frustrated with his over-description.

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