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Local Editorials

Don’t judge books by their blockbusters

Looking for summer reading? Try these two on for size: “Out of Africa” by Isak Dinesen, a Danish writer, and “Rope Burns” by Ian Probert, a British writer. 

I was drawn to these books by their outstanding movie productions, figuring that such good movies would, hopefully, equate to a good read. Fortunately, I was correct. As you well know, this isn’t always the case.

Usually, someone will read a book, then go to the movie, and be thoroughly disappointed because the movie doesn’t follow the book. They can’t. Movies and books are two completely different art forms.

What works in a book, doesn’t necessarily translate to the screen, and vice versa. Then, of course, Hollywood, feels compelled to add certain intrigues to spice things up. 

Such is the case with both “Out of Africa” and “Rope Burns.” The movies bear little, if any, resemblance to the books. However, the books are so well written, it doesn’t make any difference.

The movie, “Out of Africa” stars two blockbuster performances by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, who do their usual fine job of acting.

In the movie, the heroine, played by Streep, contracts syphilis from her husband. This is a major theme in the movie. I kept looking for this to occur in the book, but it doesn’t happen.

However, prose of the following nature more than makes up for any inconsistencies in story lines:

Once I shot an Iguana. I thought that I should be able to make some pretty things from his skin. A strange thing happened then, that I have never afterwards forgotten. As I went up to him, where he was lying dead upon his stone, and actually while I was walking the few steps, he faded and grew pale, all colour died out of him as in one long sigh, and by the time that I touched him he was grey and dull like a lump of concrete.

Can you identify?

“Rope Burns,” written by Ian Probert, became the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” staring Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and, of course, Clint Eastwood, who also directed the movie. It is an outstanding movie that bears no resemblance to the book, at all.

However, once again, I was not disappointed because the book has its own story, and is so well written, it does not disappoint. “Rope Burns” is about boxing, but don’t let the subject matter dissuade you ladies; the book is about life. Take these exerts for example:

... boxers, like pop stars, politicians and schizophrenics, very seldom know who they are ... they reinvent themselves in an effort to scale a peak that is constantly moving away from them. They become somebody else because to remain the same person is to accept responsibility for their own success or failure ... the sport presents a shrink-wrapped ready meal of the complete range of human condition ... fame is the drug ...

Apart from Hare Krishna disciples at airports and drug dealers, I have never come across a group of people who are just so darned approachable, so willing to embrace the company of strangers, so keen to ensure that you are comfortable in their presence ... There can be no more comprehensive method of proving that in boxing, glory and tragedy all too often come manacled together at the ankles.

I recommend these two books as excellent summer reading. Don’t judge a book by it’s movie.

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