David Sexton argues in London’s Evening Standard that The Lord of The Rings emerged triumphant in Britain’s “The Big Read” because people judged the film rather than the book. What’s more, according to Sexton, all of the choices were made by people who “preferred watching to reading”:
it was obvious at every stage of the proceedings that votes were being cast for films and TV adaptations rather than for the texts themselves. In Saturday’s grotesque “grand finale” from the Royal Opera House, the “celebrity advocate” for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, the tall explorer Benedict Allen actually called the work “deeply disadvantaged” because it has not yet been filmed.
Throughout, the written word has actually been shunned, while supposedly being celebrated. Instead of readings, viewers have been subjected to dismal dramatisations, some involving the celebrity pretending to be a character in the book. So we not only got Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, but Meera Syal camping it up as an Austen heroine.
JD Salinger, a great purist in his way, has never allowed The Catcher in the Rye to be filmed, or even to be published with a picture cover. So arrogant were the producers of The Big Read, so certain that they were conferring prestige, that they just went ahead and dramatised it anyway, without permission, arguing afterwards that they were merely “quoting” it for the purposes of review. That they failed to see the distinction tells all.
On Saturday, while the votes were being counted, that prize ass Clive Anderson breezily remarked: “We haven’t been able to hear too many of the actual words.” What followed, however, was yet another garbled mish-mash of purÃ©ed half-sentences delivered by yet another bunch of TV faces such as Jeremy Clarkson, Gary Lineker and Kirsty Wark.