Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Open question: Does a novelization of a film count as a novel?

On a recent episode of "The Mindy Project" (note to self: make sure your next blog post does not accidentally relate to The Mindy Project), Mindy is making small talk with an intelligent teenage girl in her apartment building and asks her what she's reading. The teenage girl is reading Jonathan Franzen (my outsider status to the literary world is apparent here as I have to ask Jonathan who?) while Mindy sheepishly replies that she's reading a novelization of the book "Iron Man." The implied joke here is that novelizations are a cheap form of literature.

I just found myself in the same conundrum. After feeling so proud of myself for finishing the novel "The Paperboy" (and blogging about it here), I went in search of another novel for all the same grandiose reasons that anyone has when they decide to turn off the TV and try reading instead: I wanted to be cultured, I wanted a greater intellectual challenge, and I wanted to lengthen my attention span.

The book "Proof of Life," based on a 2000 film about the kidnapping and ransom industry in South America, was already on my bookshelf and looked immensely promising: It was based on a film I'd seen and it was about something interesting. The book was riveting until I discovered halfway through that this wasn't the novel that the film was based on. Instead, this was a novelization of the movie. The front of the book reads "A novel by David Robbins...Based on the Screenplay by Tony Gilroy." Am I an idiot or what?

So the big question is: Are the intellectual riches I would have gotten from reading a novel still valid now that I know I'm reading a novelization? Am I still reading a novel?

Responses when I asked this on the IMDB Message Board:
  • "Counts as a novel, just not necessarily a good one." -BloodVVank
  • "Technically, yes. Intellectually, no." -Shantytown1212
  • "If film adaptations of novels count as films, then novel adaptations of films count as novels." -GrimlocksNewBrain
  • "Someone wrote it to the best of their ability - I say yes!" -Chason_S
  • "They may not be great works of literature, but it's still reading a novel. An author spent quite a bit of time writing it after all." -Unwantedaddress
  • "Sounds like you're reading for all the wrong reasons." -Dio52
  • "Does reading the Cliff Notes count as readng the book?" -Dolfanatic313
  • "I didn't even know those still existed, seemed like an 80's thing to me, but I don't see why it wouldn't count as reading a book. It probably won't count as reading a good book, and probably won't make you necessarily more "cultured", but " -Shagrroten

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