Great literature is one of the joys of my life, especially when they turn it into a movie I can blaze through in two hours.
Great books are only great, however, when compared against something else. Greatness does not exist in a vacuum, although if we shot Meryl Streep into space, we might have an exception on our hands.
It is this idea which compels me to compare and contrast the classics with other well-known things, in the hopes that it will become crystal clear to you just how deep I am.
Firstly, let’s compare two great works which have many things in common: “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and “Lady and the Tramp.” In the novel, the lady’s lover owns a spaniel. In the movie, Lady IS a spaniel. In the novel, the lover’s father was a collier. In the movie, Tramp knows a collie. Which one of these is better? “Chatterley’s,” of course, because it has sex.
But it doesn’t end there. Let’s compare:
“The Red Badge of Courage” vs. “Green Eggs and Ham.” The first is about a guy trying to overcome his fear of battle. The second is about a guy trying to overcome his fear of Day-Glo breakfast meat. Which is best? I give the nod here to “Badge,” purely because it does not contain the suggestive and troubling line, “Could you, would you, with a goat?”
“Sense and Sensibility” vs. sin. “Sense” is the story of a bunch of rich English people who all want to marry someone they can’t. Sin is a wrongful act which people do, but only if they are Catholic. Which is better? I have to go with sin. Well, SOMEBODY has to try to bring it to a wider audience.
“Great Expectations” vs. great expectorants: I can discern no difference between these two.
“Lolita” vs. lo mein. One is the tale of a man who cannot get his one-track noodle off a tasty dish, the other IS a tasty noodle dish. Which is best? The latter, because thinking unclean thoughts about a pile of noodles never hurt anybody.
“The Catcher in the Rye” vs. ketchup. “Catcher” is about a troubled teenager who is constantly expelled from schools. Ketchup is a condiment which is notoriously hard to expel from a bottle. My pick? Ketchup. Fries are lousy with troubled teens.
“The Scarlet Letter” vs. “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” “The Scarlet Letter” is a novel about Puritan-era adultery, and frankly I don’t know what the heck a pimpernel is. I think it’s some kind of really inflamed zit, and who wants to read about that? So my vote is “Scarlet Letter.” Besides, Hester Prynne really kick-started the whole slogans-on-shirts industry.
“The Sound and the Fury” vs. the sound my son makes when he has to go to bed. These two are pretty much the same.
“Anna Karenina” vs. Anakin Skywalker. “Anna” is basically “Sense and Sensibility” in Russia, except, being Russian, the heroine throws herself under a train. (That Tolstoy was a real cut-up). Anakin is a boy in “Star Wars” who grows up to become Darth Vader. Which is best? No question: Vader. Cool hat.
“Slaughterhouse-Five” vs. The Dave Clark Five. These two are so incongruous as to be laughable. So I hope you did. Because that’s all I’ve got.
“Call of the Wild” vs. Oscar Wilde. “Call” is the story of a dog who reverts to the wild and joins a wolf pack. Oscar Wilde was reportedly a bit of a dog himself. Which one is better? Oscar, because he famously uttered something I aspire to make the underlying theme of all my writing: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying.”
This little exercise only goes to show that comparing apples and oranges is not very effective, metaphorically speaking, or even metaphorically jumping up and down and waving at a TV news camera.
I hope we have learned a valuable lesson from it, though, that classic literature will always have a place in our modern lives, which is right there, propping up the Xbox 360.