Book Series — and Film Remakes — Menace or Miracle?


Lately, book series and film remakes have haunted my mind. One of the triggers was re-reading the Earth’s Children series. However exciting, however unusual the subject, it is devastating to see the deterioration of style, and accuracy, going through the series. No doubt Ms Auel’s research is pristine, but her writing becomes increasingly lazy and, in the later volumes, there are too many pointless repetitions. After a while, it becomes impossible to ignore the numerous paragraphs, easily recognized from volume to volume, mostly word to word. That, together with the endless and repetitive descriptions mars the reading experience. True, Ms Auel may not expect her readers to have the stamina to read all the books in one go, but there will always be those who do. The excessive repetitions show lack of respect for her readers’ intelligence and ability to remember what they’ve read.

Is it fair to say that many authors who mainly write series also tend towards using one or two tested and successful templates for their narratives? Sometimes with excellent results, sometimes with less convincing outcomes.

Film remakes often face the same problematic. It isn’t that simple to follow a successful rendition with excellent performers. It’s been done, and there are some remakes that are better than their inspiration. That situation repeats in book series.

That doesn’t change a few facts. Undoubtedly, there is an element of hygge in recognizing characters and storylines. On the other hand, people, and maybe especially readers — as well as film buffs — tend to get fidgety if a plot gets too obvious. Who can blame them? Readers want to be surprised. No matter how gorgeous a frame is, there must be something more. What do the readers want? What is the secret longing when film-buffs recline in their seats?

I believe that they want food for thought.

We all love and know Poirot and Jane Marple, but we also know that the stories use the same plot with variations. Some are inspired, some are less so. There are numerous authors who write one book after another . . . and their fans love them. Barbara Cartland springs to mind. As well as Ian Fleming, Agatha Christie, and several others, often authors in the crime genre (Ngaio Mash, DL Sayers, Georges Simenon, Maria Lang etc. the list is endless). All are entertaining, some are excellent, but they all have one thing in common. They have one (in a few cases more than one) main character that decides the flavour and the narrative arch. There are stock ingredients like Poirot’s moustache and patent-leather shoes, Miss Marple’s pink knitting, Sherlock Holmes pipe, violin, and syringe, Agent 007’s gun and fast cars. That reminds me that Lord Peter Wimsey also has a fast car, but he rarely shoots.

Has it become too easy? Who can tell? It is true that this is a period that sees more releases every day. There is no weekend without at least three new films opening. Indie publishers have reached over a million titles astoundingly fast. No wonder that it became necessary to re-use old subjects. On the other hand, that isn’t a new trend. Could this explain a rumour that keeps cropping up? Is it true that several successful authors have writing teams to churn out their fare, the faster the better? Maybe — maybe not — but there is a lingering suspicion that something is rotten in the publishing world.

Whatever made me put my fingers into this potential hornets’ nest? Perhaps it’s time to say something positive? That’s easy. While somethings may be rotten, which is the case in every wake of life, there’s no doubt that there’s an abundance of talented writers who take their art seriously. These are the emissaries who seek new ways of expression. They write with their heart and their intelligence and become a fresh breeze in the literary world. Their ideas may spark new visions among their peers. Thus, there’s still hope. Without a doubt, this is the situation in the film world too. If there is a steady stream of pioneers in the arts, we have nothing to fear.

© HMH, 2019

Phenomenon

Are we then likely to reach a conclusion?

Must we accept the most basic defeat?

Can sweeping statements and primeval landscapes

Account for the strangeness, the passionate nature

Protecting and challenging glorious bliss?

Would life become simpler in subtle tranquillity?

Can we achieve such miraculous feats:

Claiming insight in marvels beyond our reach?

Is love that easy on those individuals,

Who worship or value one person for life?

Sentiments change when old fancies grow tired

But must we regard this as failure or sin?

Love is the fountain of deepest emotion

Dividing the minds but compelling the hearts

Nobody questions oblique fascination

When passions and prudence traverse a blank sheet.

Strangest of all is the blissful oblivion

That enters the heart falling deeply in heat

Nothing prepares us for greatness so forceful

That all painful facts fade away in the mist.

Yet:

Irreversible joy precedes and prevails,

Throughout mischief or trouble, to light our days.

Thankfully harmony enters with wisdom

Winning the battle, that unhurried yearning

Never concedes to renounce or surrender

Even when stakes reach their consequent brink.

Courage and gallantry ever abound

Where heart and perception set forth hand in hand.

One core will certainly always remain

Where ardour, endurance complete our aim.

Accepting as true this one point is compelling:

The greatest of passions convey one real worth

Devotion grants all to the bravest of humans

Who dare to commit to the wonder of love

From Aspects of Love


Not long ago, Tim Taylor featured this poem on his blog. I want to thank him — and share the poem here

© HM Holten, 2014 (2019)