Influenced by the Movies


by Shirley Hailstock


I loved my high school. And while my chemistry teacher was the most important influence in my life, it's my English teachers that I have the most stories about. This blog is not about teachers, but about influences that some of my teachers instilled in me – mainly it was a need to read and learn, to research the people, places, and things that interested me.

Recently, I watched a movie about J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye. I never read this book. Like most people, my high school had plenty of classics for us to read and I read all of them (being an avid reader, this is no surprise). I also exhausted the summer reading list every year. However, there were books that never made the lists I was given. Catcher in the Rye being one of them.





Anyway, the movie (Rebel in the Rye) is a biography of J.D. (Jerome David) Salinger's life and specifically the writing of his only published novel. I watched the movie twice and then wanted to read the book. I read some reviews that don't really tell me why this book became a classic. So hearing my Sophomore English teacher's voice in my head telling me (before the age of the Internet) to "go look it up," I got the book and I'm reading it. At the moment, I'm finding it hard to separate this first person point of view from the man I envision. J.D. Salinger has said he and Holden Caulfield, his main character, are not the same. The book is a work of fiction. However, we writers and readers know there is a certain amount of the author in every story.

This is not the first time I've been intrigued by a version of Hollywood that had me rushing out to find the truth. Years ago, I watched Amadeus, the biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life. After seeing that, I read three or four books on his life, and he's not even my favorite composure (that would be Chopin & Rachmaninoff).



Since reading The Great Gatsby in high school (it made the list), I've been fascinated by both the story and the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. One year for Spring Break, I convinced my children to go north instead of to the place we went every year. We visited Newport, RI. I wanted to see the mansions built during the Gilded Age, but mainly I was interested in the house where they filmed the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby. Then I watched Beloved Infidel, the story of Fitzgerald and columnist Sheliah Graham.








Of course, I had to know more about Fitzgerald. First I re-read The Great Gatsby. I wanted to know if the book would hold up in today's world. It's always on the bestseller list when a new school year begins. My opinion, yes it works, even today. After that, I scoured bookstores and the library for stories about Fitzgerald.






This is a short list of movies that have influenced me enough to send me in search of sources to see what I could learn about a character or an author.  I could go on for several more pages.















For my own book, Promises to Keep, the idea also came from a television program, Route 66.  Since there were so many stories that the characters brought to the screen, I was always in the library looking for books to support those stories.


Am I alone in this? Have any of you ever gone in search of a book after seeing a movie? Tell me about it.



Comments

  1. This is so interesting, Shirley. I've neither read nor seen Catcher in the Rye, and am pretty sure I should do both. At writers' group yesterday, we were talking about classics or "real literature" and I feel terrible because I don't like very many of them--Gatsby included. I did, however, really like Route 66 a lot!

    Sort of on the same subject, I saw a play the other day, Half-Stitched, based on an Amish romance I had read. I didn't know it had been made, but both the book and play were so much fun.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think Catcher in The Rye was banned for a long time and that made everyone I knew want to read it. I really couldn't see why it'd been banned. And I don't agree with banning books anyway. When I looked at the "greatest books" list on PBS not long ago. I was surprised at how many I had read, and how many I wouldn't call the greatest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were some books banned at my high school. Before they were banned, no one had cared much about them. After they were banned, just about everyone had a copy in their lockers. I always wondered if it was a secret plot to get us kids reading. No problem here, I couldn't wait to get finished with other stuff so I could get back into a book.

      Delete
  3. One of my most extensive odysseys came after seeing The Young Victoria. I ended up doing a ton of reading and watching documentaries about Victoria and Albert, which led me to WWI. It's amazing how many things are connected and affect our world today. WWI stuff sent me on a trip to learn more about Churchill. Watching the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency made me want to read the books. I also enjoy finding some of the kid's books that movies are based upon. For quick reference during films, I run to the computer and find additional information and sometimes end up ordering a resource. So many good movies and books, so little time!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I read Catcher in the Rye years and years ago, and wasn't exactly blown away by it. And I agree, Roz. 'Greatest' is really a subjective term.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Greatest' is definitely subjective. I've watched many movies and read many books that were supposed to be at the top and couldn't understand why. But we all look at things in different ways and it's always objective.

      Delete
  5. Great, thought-provoking post, Shirley. I have a habit of looking up the facts after (or before) seeing a movie based on people and true events. My two latest obsessions were Dunkirk and The Imitation Game. (Alan Turing's life story broke my heart.)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've never read Catcher in the Rye or any of the later "classics". I have read authors like James Fenimore Cooper and Dumas and Hugo...enjoyed your post!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I read "Catcher," in high school and maintained a familiarity with it because it's so frequently censored--right up there with Madeleine L'Engle. I've had a special interest the ALA's Freedom to Read policy. Seems odd, but I like reading about many authors more than reading their books--Fitzgerald and Hemingway being two. My favorite author memoirs are the two volumes by Rumer Godden, A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, and A House with Four Rooms. What a writer's life she had! Thanks for sparking my thoughts about her. And I loved that old movie, Beloved Infidel.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment