I watched The Firm the other day. I hadn’t seen it and something just compelled me to watch it. When I searched for it on Amazon Instant two results came up. The first was the one directed by Sidney Pollack starring Tom Cruise that came out in 1993. The other was something from 2012. I obviously wanted to watch the 1993 version.
As the opening credits rolled they read “based upon the book by John Grisham” and I struck with a nagging thought – this movie was remade and updated for the 2012 version, but the book was never changed.
Why don’t we remake books?
It’s an interesting question for which I don’t really have an answer. We remake every other form of entertainment but for some reason we don’t remake books. What do I mean when I say “remake”? Great question. It means different things in each form of entertainment.
Movies are notorious for remakes. We see them all the time, and I’ve talked about this before, but remakes are almost as old as movies themselves. Rebooting a franchise might be considered a remake, that’s a case by case thing. The film industry thrives on remaking movies and it’s hard to imagine a world without remakes.
We call remakes of songs “cover songs” or “covers.” I don’t know how song remakes got their own word, but at some point it happened. Some covers become so popular that they surpass the original recordings popularity (Clapton’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Knocking on Heavens Door,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Along The Watch Tower” come to mind immediately but I grew up on classic rock). Just like in film I can’t really imagine a world without covers. (It’s worth noting that there are some great Tumblrs dedicated to cover songs. My favorite is Copy Cats.)
There’s been a wave of remaking television series in the past 10 years. Hawaii Five-0 and Battlestar Galactica pop into my head instantly. Remakes are so common in theatre that the Tony’s have a category called “Best Revival.” They give out awards for remakes. And we’re seeing remakes of older video games with every new console generation.
So, ok, this is stuff you probably already know. But of it’s ok to remake movies, television shows, plays, songs and video games, why as a culture don’t we remake books.
We adapt them/modernize books into other artforms. Casino Royale, the book, takes place in the 50s. But when the story was updated in 2006 only a movie was made, an updated book was not written. I just recently read Casio Royale. The movie is beat for beat, almost identical. The book could definitely use a face lift.
So I ask again. Why don’t we remake books?
I don’t know. I really can’t figure it out. The only thing I can think of, might actually insult people. It’s actually so simple, it might be right.
Most of the book people (writers, publishers, editors, and even many avid readers) are book snobs. And the book snobs have all the power.
By book snobs, I don’t mean people who read. I read. I’ve been averaging around 10 books a year the past few years. When I say book snob I mean the kinds of people who would never dream of owning a Kindle or a Nook. The people who think owning books is some kind of status symbol. People enjoy the smell of books, the weight of them in your bag, the ones who get angry when you call the act of printing, binding, shipping, and stocking books on shelves “a little archaic.”
The closest analogy I can come up with is, if Hollywood only shot movies on 35mm film and then refused to make a movies available except projected (on film) in theaters. No DVD, no streaming, no shooting on any modern cameras. I would call that a little archaic too.
Ok, so, back on point. I think the type of people running the book industry are book snobs. You can tell it’s out dated because we don’t call it the book industry we call it the print industry. Print. and Egon Spangler said, “print is dead" in Ghostbusters. A movie that came out in 1984, and one that director Ivan Reitman thinks should be remade.
Ok, I’m probably being too harsh. But I get the general sense that there is actually too much respect for books. And I can’t help but think that the idea of remaking a book would be insulting to the whole industry. I can already hear them say,”why not just read the book that’s there? Is there something wrong with what the author wrote?”
Maybe I’m over thinking this. Maybe the reason why books aren’t remade is because there isn’t a market for it. Maybe I’m the only one interested in reading a modernized version of Murder on the Orient Express where the Orient Express was a luxury airline making a direct flight from NY to Tokyo. Or an updated version of 1984 where all the technology get’s a little bump to make the whole thing seem more plausible.
I really don’t have an answer. I just know that I often want books to be updated, or remade and they seem to not exist.
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