A while ago, I read an article in Oprah’s magazine, O, about an actress’ favorite novels. It is a recurring article in the magazine, and my favorite part of a magazine that I actually think is really great. They ask famous people about their ten favorite books, and the people list them, and also tell what was so inspiring about them. For example, here‘s what Laura Linney told O about her favorite books.
I don’t know what it is about that feature that always draws me in: I do have a terrible habit of always trying to see what complete strangers are reading. If I am in a coffee shop, I will look around at every person in there to see if one of them is reading something that I have never heard of before, or something i love already. I love the voyeuristic nature of looking over someone’s shoulder, much like checking out a person’s bookshelf at home, or their CD collection. I guess it is that peep into someone’s reading choices that I like about it, and even better, the people tell you why they liked them. As if by seeing a person’s reading choices, I could know what makes them tick. God, if Oprah could only get Christian Bale to reveal his favorites and why.
Anyway, I think the actress being interviewed this particular month was the love interest from the movie Pearl Harbor. (Can’t remember her name, but she is so beautiful that I was sure her choices would be dumb as hell. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do hate beautiful people.) I can’t remember any of the other books she listed, but in particular, the way she discussed Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series really struck me as the way I talked about some of my favorite books. I made a note to myself to check them out next time I was at a bookstore and then promptly forgot about them until a couple months later when I happened to run across them while looking for something completely different. I picked them up and then devoured all three in less than two weeks.
They are children’s books, supposedly, or maybe young adult, although the last book gets a little out of what I would consider the realm of children’s fiction. They are set in present-day Oxford, but with so many layers of parallel universes in the books, they sometimes have an almost Victorian sensibility that then throws you for a fantastic loop. Like other beloved children’s novels by Rowling, Lewis, and even Tolkien (yes, i am throwing the comparison out there!), these books create their own world, similar enough to our own to be believable and so completely different as to capture the imagination completely. I loved everything about them – from the not so elementary emotional subjects tackled, to Lyra, the smart little cookie of a protagonist. The antagonist is as love-to-hate as Cruella DeVille, and the other characters, (including humans, animals, and witches) are all so real you could reach out and touch them. The books are three of my favorites, and the thing that most impresses me about them is that I could have read them at ten and enjoyed them just as much as I did in my early 30s. They have that quality that I adore in a novel – the ability to work on as many levels as the universes contained within.
After finishing them, about the same time as the last of The Lord of the Rings trilogy films arrived in theaters, I thought to myself,
“Dear God, please make a movie of these books. Wait. No, God, please don’t. There is no way that I can bear another of my favorite books distorted and watered down and ruined for me on the big screen. I don’t think the success of the LOTR film adaptation can be repeated.”
I go through this all the time at the thought of favorite novels adapted for the big screen. At times, though my desire to see the film is there, I will just pretend it was never made, knowing that some director’s vision will never match what I have created in my own mind of what a book looks, feels, and sounds like.
I experienced both sadness and excitement when Todd told me they were making The Golden Compass into a film. For the last year or so, I have loosely followed the casting for the film. (Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter – Brilliant choice! Sam Elliott as Lee Scoresby? Perfection. Some newcomer with the god-awful name Dakota Blue Richards as my beloved Lyra? I shudder to think what the result will be.)
And then today, Todd sent me the following link to the director’s teaser trailer on YouTube. I debated watching it. To watch it is to change the image I have in my head of Lyra and the rest forever.
I totally watched it. It looks really great. Even Dakota Blue, although she looks nothing like I imagined. Gollum looked different than I imagined, too, though, and I really like him now.
Cool stuff, but I am kind of glad there was no internet when I was reading other childhood favorites. I may never have learned to drink, or lost my virginity, or gone off to college. I think I would still be sitting up in my room reading some WikiNerdOPedia.