A few weeks ago I went camping for a night with five of my mates. While there, they called over a trio of girls who were setting up tent in the plot next to ours. The entire time the girls were there I sat on my lonesome prodding the fire and only vaguely listening in on the conversation. It was mostly uninteresting. “What’s your favourite TV show?” or “What type of music are you in to?” or, sadly, “What foods do you like?”
Eventually, the topic of books was somehow brought up in the random array of subjects, although the only things I heard were derogatory to the art of reading and writing. “I don’t read,” or “I’ll never read a book,” or “Why would I read a book when I can watch a movie?” It disheartened me, and it made me understand how isolated I am in the 21st century as a literature enthusiast.
As time moves forward, traditional literature is slowly being put on the back burner. Everyone would much rather plop a DVD into their surround sound system and watch a movie than sit in the corner, being quietly swallowed into a tale crafted only by words. Why is this? Why do directors insist on making film adaptions of every best-selling book, and why do movie-lovers continue to ignore the source material and praise only what they can see without effort?
“Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.” – Georges Simenon, 1955
As technology progresses, we are given more and more unique ways in which to enjoy stories. We now have the computer power to bring Middle Earth to life; to unleash a spell on Hogwarts and see it with our very eyes; and to travel through the wardrobe and be cast into the magical realm of Narnia. There are many optimists who see this as a chance to expand on the worlds created by our most beloved authors and bring their visions to a wider audience—the stories will never die. However, is this really the case?
Did you feel like you were right alongside Frodo as he hiked the peak of Mount Doom when you watched Peter Jackson’s rendition? Did you feel as if you were casting magic along with Harry on the big screen? Did you feel the coldness of the snow as you stepped foot into Narnia with the poorly computer-generations animals? From the conversion between book and film, many things are lost. It may be a subplot, side characters deemed unnecessary, or even entire story arcs altered by the director’s discretion. Regardless of what is and what isn’t lost in transition, the end result always feels different; there will always be a clear distinction between book and film—the latter will never be as immersive as the former, no matter how many 3D gimmicks are fed to us. CS Lewis once stated he wished for his creation, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” to remain as a series of books and never make the transition to movies. He believed the magic of Narnia would never have the same impact on screen as it does in his books. And I would agree.
“Acting is easier – writing is more creative. The lazy man vies with the industrious.” – William Shatner
People are lazy, this is truth, and the progression of technology provides only further excuses to be lazy. Society may see itself moving forward, but in reality, all that is happening is we are finding new ways to complete tasks without exerting any effort. However, is the developing laziness truly the answer to the downfall of reading? You may have thought this to be the reason, and while it may hold a strong portion to the answer, I beg to differ.
Laziness does not discourage reading, rather, technology desensitises us to reading. Computers, movies, music, video games. The current century has so many leisure outlets that we are growing less and less despondent to what is being classed as ancient activates. Reading is being pushed away and being replaced by other ways of absorbing a story that engages the audience in other manners. Writing still exists but in many forms; writing a script for a movie, television or video game.
It is a sad truth that the more traditional expression of stories is fading from our world in place of interactivity. Yet as small as our army of readers and writers has become, we still press on. It is something of a privilege—nay, an honour—to stand for what we know and love. And if it is a battle doomed to fail, our bookshelves abolished and replaced by DVD and video games cases, all of us and our descendants will likely go down with the ship as the last of a dying breed.