To See Or Not to See

Meghan Dietsche Goel - July 21, 2017

Movie adaptations can create exciting bubbles of energy and enthusiasm around beloved titles in a bookstore. Regardless of the box office performance, this can be a really great thing for a book. And why not? Who can resist the allure of seeing a beloved story or world brought to life? Of course, sales following the movie surge taper off and can even be impacted by a film’s reception, but the heightened media awareness definitely helps get the book in readers’ hands. We’ve seen a huge surge in Captain Underpants series sales all summer; Everything, Everything is going strong; and now we’re starting to see a ramp up on A Wrinkle in Time.

“… if I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.” –Madeleine L’Engle

I remember a post a few months ago from my colleague Elizabeth Bluemle about “The Book That Made You Fall in Love with Books,” expanding upon a question from Benjamin Alire Sáenz that asked us all to recall the book that first really turned the reading light switch on. For me that first one was probably Little Women, but the book that made the largest impact on me was A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, the main character was called Meg and was somewhat awkward in her own skin, not always knowing how to relate to others. But beyond that personal connection, it was just exactly the right book for me at the right time. I found it mind-expanding and challenging in the best ways. Thoughtfully drawing from the rich traditions of science, theology, literature, and philosophy, this modern classic about three kids who are sent on an adventure through the cosmos navigates some incredibly ambitious territory and leaves readers reflecting on the nature of the universe, the human experience, and the forces of evil. It’s heady stuff for a 10-year-old. And it spurred me to want to read and learn more about so many things.
My interest was naturally piqued this week when I saw the first trailer for Ava Duvernay’s upcoming film. Dominated by stunning, colorful imagery, I am intrigued by what I can see so far—especially because it brought the book visually to life in ways I never expected. The luminous depictions of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who are nothing like the images I conjured in my mind’s eye as a kid (which honestly tended more toward frumpy), but feel astral and strange and somehow appropriate for fallen stars nonetheless. And I am really excited to see such a diverse cast of characters, especially within the core Murry family itself. But despite my optimism for the limited material I can see so far, I can’t help but feel trepidation whenever a favorite book is turned into a movie. Even if, or maybe especially if, I end up liking the movie too.
I think it’s that absorbing someone else’s interpretation of a beloved book’s characters, settings, and themes can sometimes slightly change my relationship with the original. That’s not necessarily good or necessarily bad, I suppose. But especially for the books I go back to, the ones special enough to re-read, part of the call to return comes from the desire to re-imagine the world. And after I’ve seen the movie, I’ve found I sometimes feel that impulse less often. Don’t get me wrong, nothing can ever take away my personal relationship with a book like A Wrinkle in Time. At the same time I wonder: Even while movies let us immerse ourselves in literary worlds in whole new ways, do we lose a little something along the way? I guess that’s why it’s such a personal choice each time. To see or not to see, that is the question. Right now I’m planning to see it next March!
What are your thoughts on movie adaptations? Will you be seeing this one?

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