Saturday, April 2, 2011

Books, Movies, and the Library

I went to the public library today to work on this Monday's post.* Before I left, I took a closer look at the "decorations" adorning the library walls. There were a few, smaller posters of the "READ @ your local library" variety, but the largest posters, the ones demanding the most attention, were movie posters. I found this sad.

I grant you that the posters weren't entirely out of place in a library. They mostly advertised either movies adapted from well-known books (Last of the Mohicans, Charlotte's Web, Laurence Fishburne's Othello, and the ubiquitous Harry Potter) or movies about writers and writing (Finding Neverland). But even those smaller, less-emphasized READ posters featured well-known actors.

Although it's nice to know that every single actor in the Twilight movies supports local libraries, it still struck me as sad and wrong that a library -- an institution indelibly linked with books -- had to resort to marketing its wares with icons from an entirely different medium.

That isn't how it should be. People shouldn't look at a book as a thing that might lead to a good movie, or to look to Hollywood to tell us what books are worth reading. We shouldn't be using icons of movies -- a passive activity -- to promote the value of books and of the idea of reading, which requires active participation. It's too incongruous. It sends the wrong message.

We don't look to professional musicians to get us excited about watching movies. We don't go to art museums to find out about good music. Why, then, do we rely on Hollywood to point us toward literature? Why shouldn't we instead look to the icons of literature to remind us of the joy of reading?

Were I a graphic artist, correcting this mismatch would be a great cause for me to pursue. If I had the skills and the equipment, I could create "movie posters" for classic works of literature and do what I could to get them in public libraries, perhaps donating two or three for every one I sold.

And these wouldn't just be poster-sized versions of front cover art. They would get the full treatment: tag lines, blurbs from other authors, starred literary views, and recognition of awards -- anything that drives home the joy, excitement, and importance of the work and of reading in general and places good books on par with good movies.

Because we, the readers and writers, know that books are far superior to movies.

I could do all this, of course, only if I had the skills, the time, and the equipment, which I don't. I might, though, from time to time, try to play around with the idea here in purely digital form. I encourage you to do the same (to be safe, stick with books in the public domain) .

If someone picks up this idea and tries to run with it, or if someone is already doing this, please let me know here. I'd love to get involved.

* It turns out that I have a lot of editorial peeves that start with D. I might have to split next week's posting in twain.