Better than the movie

Over at Slate, Grady Hendrix wonders if the movie tie-in novelization will die a slow painful death by DVD – if the point of movie novelizations was to recreate the experience of a beloved film, why bother if consumers can just watch it endlessly at home? But the beauty of the novelization is that writers have to add things to pad out the film script to an entire book, albeit a crappy one printed on newprint so thin it practically dissolves in your hands. And, worse, writers have to pick a point of view. Rocky Balboa’s. Luke Skywalker’s. Or, say, E.T, with a bit of the stalking subplot that failed to make the film:

[E.T.] crept down the hall to Mary’s room and peeked in. The willow-creature was asleep, and he watched her for a long time. She was a goddess, the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. … Mary, said his old heart. Then upon paddle feet, he tiptoed over to her bed and gazed more closely.

I’ll never forget the summer we brought the novelization of The Rose, starring Bette Midler, to Girl Scout camp. Of course, it was an R-rated movie and we knew we’d never get in, never be able to buy tickets for Rocky II or The Muppet Movie and then sneak over a theater. Under the beam of a flashlight, we read one another tales of drug overdoses, date rape, group sex and drunken stage antics. It was so much better than those lame stories of escaped lunatics with claws down by lover’s lane around the campfire. Now when we had to go to the latrine in the middle of the night, it wasn’t just ghosts or luntics we had to worry about. No, it was junkies, pimps, horny high school football players, drunken roadies and inept management. So we cowered in that tent, painfully huddled with our straining bladders in sleeping bags until the light of day, until it was safe. We read that thing until the pages were limp as Kleenex.

So, a soft spot remains in my heart. Never change, crappy movie tie-in novelizations. You are, to me, the embodiment of summer.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.