You ask someone today if they’ve heard of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and they say yes, they have. It was that film with Ben Barnes wasn’t it? *Pause for a defeated shake of the head* With the film and television industry quickly reaching its apparent limits in imagination and originality, the world of classic literature is ever increasingly being consumed in theatrical depiction. Gone is the world when no two people could replicate their exact imaginings of a character drawn from a book. There is now an image for everything. The movies do your thinking for you. I must say this saddens me greatly, I feel as though I have missed out on hundreds of intriguing and all-time-consuming-stay-up-past-midnight reads, with the plots of all the famous classics spoiled though the idle viewing of films. Take my example from above, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It is likely my favourite piece of literature, with beautifully used language and an intense plot which builds throughout creating tension and an apprehension of what will come to past. At least, it should have done. Now as I said, this is one of my all-time favourites. Yet, I feel as though I would have appreciated it on an entirely new level had my cousins not lent me the DVD version a couple of years prior to my reading. The plot was nothing new, the twists already known, and ultimately all I had to really enjoy was how the original transcended the copy.
But it doesn’t end there. Today too many people are being eased all too readily into idleness, with the labour of turning anything over the limits of a magazine and having to think as one recovers the plot from a prior reading seeming all too much to bear. Why should I read it when I can watch it in a fraction of the time? Now I, as I assume is common among most of you reading this, spent what time of my childhood that wasn’t outdoors behind the comforting pages of a book.
My imagination would soar as even the most basic, primitive language of a children’s book revealed to me entire worlds and wonders. In fact I remember at one point in my very early years insisting to my mother that the books I read actually transported me to these worlds to witness the unfolding of the events myself, an innocent novelty I’m genuinely quite fond of from my past. But today people have no need of imagination, someone else has already captured that on a screen for all to behold. Of course I’m not for a moment suggesting I dislike television, in fact I regard myself as quite the movie ‘buff’, however should I get the chance I will always read the book before the film.
There is nothing quite like building your own perceptions of characters, building an image of the worlds each author depicts and generally revelling in something which will always be entirely your own. Unfortunately however I must admit of late I have actually fallen into this idle tendency myself, having only briefly begun a single book over the past four months, (although this can be attributed somewhat to the vast amounts of reading I must do for my course). But with the likes of Netflix, NowTV, and the internet in general allowing instant access to all the media industry has to offer, it is far too easy for people to fall into a world without literature, passively being fed the imaginings of another in place of their own.
I read the histories of the likes of Thucydides, Tacitus and Bede, and the enormous amounts they appear to have read, drawing quotes from all past ages and numerous contemporaries, boasting a readership I could only dream to surpass. At first this perplexed me, how could these men, with numerous positions and jobs held, have read what appears to be near the entirety of their known literature? But the answer is simple, they had not the slothful enticement of television, but rather only the excitement and interest procured from reading.
Even with all its wonders and entertainment, (believe me I love Game of Thrones as much as the next guy), I must admit I would much rather have had no experience of Television so that my mind, imagination and literacy could have flourished by it. So go on and read, read and spur your brain to its limitless imaginings and enjoy what sadly appears to be a dying indulgence.