I generally don’t find that movie adaptations “ruin” books for me, but it is true that they can aggressively interfere with the reading experience. I sometimes find that the images and tone of a film can push their way in uninvited when I am reading, and it can be hard to re-find the imaginative space to let the story breathe on its own. The closer an adaptation is to its source, the worse the problem is. I have no great desire to watch “Game of Thrones,” because that world has already been so elaborately constructed in my head that it seems likely to be badly shaken by the introduction of other images. It is largely for this reason that I prefer film adaptations that do not slavishly adhere to the details of their source material, but instead try to find a new interpretation. But it usually doesn’t bother me too much, in the end, to read a book after watching a movie version. Usually, the words drown out the remembered images.
But sometimes…sometimes the images that I remember from a movie are just better than those that the text itself conjures up. This was my experience reading Stephen King’s “Misery” during a plane ride to Portland for Thanksgiving.
I first remember watching “Misery” with my brother and cousins at my aunt’s house. I must have been quite young, because I remember them telling me to leave the room for a couple of scenes (it was infuriating being the youngest cousin)…not that that really protected me, as I listened from the hallway to the sounds of screams and bones breaking. If you somehow haven’t heard a thing about it, quit reading now and go watch the film, as I imagine that it is best to see it unspoiled. However, if you want a quick plot recap: Paul Sheldon is a writer of a cheesy but insanely popular series of romance novels staring the adventures of a 19th century beauty named Misery Chastain. Following a car crash on a remote mountain road that shatters his legs, he is taken in by a former nurse named Annie Wilkes, who declares herself to be his number one fan. Upon reading his most recent book, in which he kills off Misery and ends the series, Annie grows increasingly unstable, forcing Paul to write a new Misery book and acting out in various unpredictable, violent, and frightening ways. Continue reading