Blog No. 53
I love movies. I’m not alone there, but unlike most people I can actually fall completely into a movie. It doesn’t matter what genre or how good the visuals are. Either at home or in the theater, once the film starts I am entirely absorbed. The only thing that takes me out of the experience is usually poor writing but sometimes, bad acting can do it too. I’ve realized that I can’t take a girl to the movies on a date. The theater goes dark and I am gone. I even usually stay to watch the credits (and not just in the hopes that there is an extra vignette after). I know this is part two of reading but I am explaining this because movies both held my reading back and brought me to it.
When I was younger I would choose a movie over a book every time. By the time I was in high school I had read a few novels but I had watched hundreds of movies. In grade ten I spent a lot of time in the basement watching movies. It was almost like my own theatre with my parent’s old TV and VCR. I could watch whatever I wanted practically any time. I was down there watching Blade Runner for probably the second time (there were a lot of movies I watched with my parents that I was too young to find interesting and went back to myself when I was older). I was watching the credits feeling moved by the ending of the movie (it was the director’s cut) and I saw that Philip K. Dick based it off a book. (I’ve skimmed the story before but it is one of the most significant developments in my reading and writing that I felt it could use some more detail).
The name of the book was weird and I probably sniggered at the name Dick but I decided that I wanted to read that book. I went to the Coles we had in the mall and ended up having to ask a clerk to order it for me. He made fun of the name but I was really interested and persevered. I think I got a Star Wars book in the mean time and I know I went to see a movie at the old mall theater while I was there. It took a few weeks for the book to come in and my parents took me to the mall to pick it up when it finally did. The cover was cool and it wasn’t too thick. I started reading it as soon as I got home. I am a slow reader so it took me some time, but I was so taken with it that I found myself taking about the book with anyone who would listen to me. I’m sure I bogarted more than a few family dinners talking about it. When I finished I got another novel by Dick and then I started getting his short story collections and my world was changed.
Dick’s writing is plain but his ideas are amazing. His novels are almost universally great (in my opinion) but his short stories are breathtaking. The twists and turns and juxtaposed concepts send my little head spinning. I didn’t spend a lot of time doing my assigned homework back then, but I spent nights reading and re-reading those short stories. I can honestly say that my decision to tell my own stories was solidified in that time. (I had inklings before but nothing as vivid). I read several of his novels as well and even read a biography or two on him. I was developing as a reader. I even argued to my English teacher that Dick was an important enough author for me to do several projects on. I was near obsessed but I also wrote my first full story in that time so who can argue with the results. (The story was terrible but it had a beginning middle and end and I came up with it myself).
I can’t say that I became a voracious reader from that time, but it was a solid start. I used my new found enjoyment of Dick to spread out to other authors and I used the momentum from reading several novels in a row to read most nights. I still read (and sometimes still do read) Star Wars novels, but I explored other classic sci-fi authors and even a few fiction novelists too. I did read a horror novel and I tried to do fantasy but they aren’t always my kind of stories.
Movies brought me to Philip K. Dick and he brought me into reading. He is still my favorite author and easily the most influential writer in my stable. I don’t think he is the best writer ever and I don’t even think I can count one of his books as my favorite (I am terribly at having favorites, books, movies, CDs or anything) but he is possibly the most creative writer of the twentieth century. His ideas and stories do exactly what science fiction is supposed to do and asks questions that the reader is compelled to answer. His stories don’t end. They continue in the mind of his readers and challenge them to think in a different way. I strive to add a little of that in my own writing and I am really tempted to add a penis joke to the end of this post.
To be continued.