Saturday, February 13, 2010

Perspective

The Pixar film, Ratatouille, is one of my favorites from that studio. There's a line in there that always struck me as ironic and funny. When food critic Anton Ego arrives at the restaurant wanting to be dazzled by the new chef, he says this to the waiter:
After reading a lot of overheated puffery about your new cook, you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?
I thought of that line last weekend when I watched the original Star Wars trilogy with my son. He had never seen the films and I am geek enough to insist that they be watched in release order, thank you very much. Thus, over two weekends, I watched Star Wars (none of this A New Hope crap), The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi and I started thinking about perspective.

I am part of the Star Wars Generation. That is, life and outlook and play before Star Wars (1977) was different after seeing the film than before it. Entire worlds were created in the minds of young people (and older ones, too). The language of Star Wars pervades the modern vocabulary. I was so hoping that my boy would get to experience Darth Vader’s famous line the correct way: by watching the movie.

Here’s the thing: I’m now forty one, an adult, a writer, a creator. It’s difficult to recapture all the nuances of childhood because my perspective has changed. My adult self gets in the way. With the original trilogy, however, all the main stages of my perspective can be relived. When I watch the first film, my writer self is largely subsumed in my childhood self. I’m still a kid watching it for the first time, still thrilled at the exploits of our heroes and I almost always get those goosebumps when Luke blows up the Death Star. The Empire Strikes Back is the movie that just flat-out great. It was my first sequel but the themes of that show (loyalty, love, courage in defeat) spoke to my adolescent self. Now, as an adult, I can see just how well made and well written it is. Don’t get me started with Return of the Jedi. All the fun I had back in 1983 is largely gone because I can’t get past all the problems I see now that I know better.

Since this is a mystery fiction blog, I would have liked to have used a famous crime story to make this point. Alas, I’m a late comer to the mystery field and I’m still too busy reading this stuff (and everything else) for the first time to bother re-reading anything. But I know a lot of y’all out there have re-read favorite books at different stages of your lives. For those books to which you keep returning, why do you, considering your perspective has changed? For those books that have changed over time and you have stopped re-reading, did you change or has the book changed?

4 comments:

Jay Stringer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Stringer said...

Wow that comment sucked. Try again Stringer.

interesting question. There are a few changes i've experienced over the last few years.

Firstly Star Wars. As a kid born in 1980, i was the perfect age for the follow on boom...the toys. I grew up in a decade that was obsessed with toys and created pop culture to go with them; Star Wars spin offs, He-Man, Transformers, Bravestar, etc..

So i'm of an age where Star Wars is literally a fact of life. I can quote the films inside and out and probably always will be able to. But about 18 months ago i realised that i don't actually enjoy the series. I'm not a fan of the first one, the writing and the casual racism/stereotypes (Mcfet could link to the speech on youtube) force me out of it. The third one was worse. The second is good, no question. But i realised that i like one out if six, and that wasn't a good enough average for me to fight on. And a lot of that is my analytical writers brain.

Books...LeCarre is a great writer. I still have no doubt about that. But what i did find recently was that -as much as i adored the Smiley books when i was 18- i can't get back into them at 29/30. I just don't engage with the writing. And who knows, maybe that will swing back again in future.

I loved Lord Of The Rings at 10-13, but tried rereading when the films came out and couldnt look past the lack of revision or editing. But The Hobbit still stands up, i can read that no problem.

I would wonder, if reading/writing crime has any more of an impact on our reading tastes than other styles of fiction? Since becoming more involved in writing, and since honing my tastes in reading, i'm all about wanting the 'show dont tell' and the lean simple prose. So anything else sticks out and makes it hard for me to keep reading. Bit of a chicken and egg thing there.

Chris said...

I revisit more movies than I reread books, though usually one or two of the books I read every year are ones I've read before. For Star Wars, I saw the first one at the local triplex, and on the same day my cousin and I saw Star Wars, Viva Knievel, and The Island of Dr. Moreau one after the other (paid for one admission, then snuck into the other two movies -- it was a long, glorious day). Dr. Moreau actually had a greater effect on my than Star Wars. I ran around in the woods with my dogs with a plastic set of fake vampire teeth for weeks afterward. I don't know that I have revisited that movie though, not counting the remake they did of it in the 90s or whenever.

I'm harder on the writing of such things for new stuff than I am of things I revisit. Burroughs, RE Howard, Tolkien, etc. were writers I grew up with that are pretty wow-inducing at times when I read them now, and not necessarily in a good way, but the vibe is what I'm after. And those guys still deliver for me, in a big, big way.

At risk of making my long reply even longer, I recently revisited an old favorite for Forgotten Books Friday, which you can check out if you are interested:

http://tinyurl.com/y9zg88t

Great topic, Scott! As for Star Wars, the first two are the only ones that matter, or that I ever watch. I still remember the shock I felt in Empire when Vader reveals he is Luke's father like it just happened yesterday. In the age of the internet and spoilers, that kind of thing just can't happen anymore.

Joelle said...

Star Wars. Hmmm...I didn't do the action figures. (I didn't do Barbies either, so it wasn't a chick thing.) But I loved the movies. Still do. And until today, I never realized that I still feel the same way about the movies as my childhood self did. No so for books.

I read a lot. When I am not full out writing I read as many as 4-5 books a week. And it never fails that I read one or two a month that I have read in the past. Sometimes I am looking deeper into why I liked the book in the first place. Sometimes I reread because my friends had different takes on the books. Once in a while I find a book that my perspective has changed on. The Catcher in the Rye did that...as a kid I thought it was fun and interesting. As an adult I was struck by the recklessness of youth and how I didn't see that when I read it in high school. As a parent...well, the book breaks my heart.