My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I just finished reading Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright. Normally I would like to link to the author’s web site. But Cartwright is so new as an author that she hasn’t established a professional website for herself nor has she maintained her blog which hasn’t been updated since 2009. As I read Riding Hood I felt sad for her. Oh, I know she got a great book deal and personally I should have such problems. However, I feel that someone who graduated from Barnard College’s creative writing program would have more aspirations then to be a shill for Warner Bros. Pictures. You see, although Cartwright has written these words, she doesn’t own them, Warner Bros. does. Cartwright’s name doesn’t even appear on the cover of the book. When has that ever happened? Whose name does appear on the cover, you ask?
The director’s name appears on the cover of the book and just about everywhere else. The director, Catherine Hardwicke, writes a nice introduction to this book saying how she thought that her friend, the young graduate Cartwright, would be perfect to write this book. The science fiction reader in me cringed. If it has big eyes, has big ears, and it has big teeth, my friends, you have discovered the werewolf in sheep clothing. Run!
It doesn’t take an adult reader to discover that Cartwright has followed Hardwicke’s instructions to the letter for this young adult science fiction novel. It is a book that reads like a movie. As the TV and magazines have been flooded with advertisements for the movie, I didn’t even have the option of imagining who the characters were in my head, all readers will have the director’s images already waiting as each character is introduced. Maybe Hardwicke didn’t trust her young audience to get it right and felt that she must control every aspect of their thinking. I hate to tell her that no one has a greater imagination than teenagers; especially teenage girls. She has just robbed them of creating their own Peter and their own wolf. Or maybe after directing Twilight, Hardwicke thought she could reverse-engineer the same literary phenomena that Stephenie Meyer masterfully wrote in her vampire series.
Crime Against Novels And Readers
Cartwright does a fair job of trying to build tension into her book but as the climax is about to be breached the greatest crime in publishing history was committed. Previously, I thought the greatest publishing crime was committed during an episode of M*A*S*H. The camp, desperate for entertainment one winter, was reading a book that Hawkeye had received from his father. They had carefully ripped out one chapter at a time and passed it around to each person so that everyone in the unit could read it. However, when Hawkeye got to the last chapter it was missing from the book. This is a reader’s nightmare! And it although it was totally fictional in M*A*S*H, as a devout reader I carried that trauma around with me for years. But now, Little Brown and Company – in an effort to jump on the movie money-making machine – has made that nightmare a reality. There is a punishment for every crime, and this one could be the end of the books as we know them.
I prefer to remember when books were the source material for movies; not the Happy Meal prize that supplements the merchandising plan. I remember reading Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell and how proud I was that the movie kept very close to the book. It wasn’t word for word but you could tell that the script writers had read the book and appreciated Mitchell’s work. Charles Portis wrote a story of murder and revenge through the eyes of a young girl, Mattie Ross, which has now been made into two movies with the same names as his book, True Grit (1969 and 2010). While each version of the movie focused on a different theme brought up during the book, both managed to tell the same story and stayed true to the original novel. I completely enjoyed the travel novel Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert because I could accompany Gilbert on her journey that I know I’ll never experience. I also recently watched the movie of the same name with Julia Roberts. While I found the movie entertaining I felt that it left out some key scenes that had helped to explain Gilbert’s reluctance to commit to love. They made the movie work without those scenes, but they also lost some of tension and climax that the book captured. And that is why I believe books will and SHOULD always come before the movie.
In this age of technology and fast communication, I read a novel like Red Riding Hood aimed at young adults and I wonder if this what publishers, parents, and society wants our children to grow up thinking is the value of the written word.
- If piecemeal scenes, unfinished character sketches, and gaping holes in plots pass for completed novels, then what example are we showing to the future writers and readers?
- How does the publishing industry expect to survive when this generation of teenagers birthed on Facebook and texting reaches adulthood and have never read a book for enjoyment with any substance?
- Will we be dumbing down adult books next?
Publishers need to think long and hard before they train children to stop thinking and reading. Instead they should be engaging children to read more. They should be investing with technology providers to target teenagers and make them life-long readers while they are still open to learning and trying new things. This is your opportunity publishers to seize the day! Partner with librarians, teachers, and parents to integrate into a young audience in a meaningful way. Stop grabbing the quick cash and go for the long haul and we’ll all still be in the game when our kid’s kids are grandparents.
For information on the missing last chapter and marketing books, read Red Riding Hoax by Erek Daniels.
For a review of the movie, Red Riding Hood Review (2011) With Amanda Seyfried & Gary Oldman