All right, true confession time. I'm one of those people who emailed Peter Jackson to explain to him in fine detail all the many ways he got it WRONG! You know what I'm talking about here, and if you don't, you are banished! Actually, you're not banished. But come on, Peter Jackson? Lord of the Rings, the amazing three part spectacle of visual pyrotechnics that got it WRONG? You know what I'm talking about here.
Actually, he got a lot right. With the exception of Liv Tyler, whose probably fine in other things, the casting was superb. At times unexpected, but all the more delightful for the surprise. And I give Jackson credit for putting together a striking visual treat. I don't regret the missing Tom Bombadil or certain other liberties with the story. But, and I'm just being brutally honest here, he did kinda miss the major point of the book, as displayed most keenly in the first movie when Aerosmith's daughter zapped Frodo. See? She zapped Frodo, but when she did it, she wasn't Arwen, but rather Liv Tyler with a cheesy accent. How did that happen in a movie where everyone else was so spot on? That's what I want to know. And, yes, I was okay with raising the pulse rate of the Aragorn/Arwen love story, but she didn't zap Frodo. It didn't happen, it didn't happen, it didn't happen! And it rooooined it. It made trivial everything sacrifice Frodo made from thence forward. (Note the use of "thence" in an actual sentence in the 21st century).
Obviously I'm taking this too seriously. But I'm not, really. I have an out. You see, the movie, while delightful to look at, especially if you fast-forward through the Aerosmith parts, doesn't actually exist. The only movie less existent is the previous Ralph Bakshi variant, described at the Internet Movie Database as "Not As Bad AS I Thought It Would Be." Which is a charming sentiment, but also wrong. It was worse.
The thing is, I've read The Lord of the Rings about a hundred million times. Of course I've multi-read The Hobbit too. Hell, I've even read The Silmarillion — more than once. Why? you might ask. And even if you don't ask, I'm telling you. The Lord of the Rings is my comfort food. Anytime something bad is about to happen to me that I know about in advance (for example, gall bladder surgery or volunteering for the Army) I read The Lord of the Rings. I can probably recite whole sections of it from memory, though trust me, you don't want to get me started.
I'm thinking about this because I read this article today online about the travails of mixing literary tastes and dating, about the benefits and perils of judging a significant other by the books they claim. Not just the books they read, but the books they claim. Their significant books. The books that somehow touched them or shaped them (or, okay, sure, maybe didn't shape them at all). Got me to thinking about whether I would be married right now if I'd admitted to this Lord of the Rings thing while my wife and I were dating. I mean, seriously. Have you read what I said above? Am I out of my mind? Emails to Peter Jackson?
And here's what's worse. I didn't actually SEND the emails, I just fantasized about sending them. I let other people do the actually sending, and just applauded them from the safety of my basement lair. How pathetic is that?
Here's another book that is really important to me: The Mystery of the Witches' Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton. I first read it in fourth grade, and then proceeded to re-read it approximately as often as I've reread The Lord of the Rings. It's been a bit of a problem though, because it's always been published in a cheap paperback format which tends to disintegrate by the time I've gotten through it four or five times, which means I have to go back to the Amazon Marketplace well again and again for yet another battered used copy. Tragic, really. But then, the average price these days is 39¢, or nine dollars with shipping and handling.
Anyway. You should read it. Brilliant YA noir, if you can believe such a beast actually exists. It does. It's in this book, in fact. The Mystery of the Witches' Bridge. Remember that title. Tattoo in your arm, just in case. Well worth it. Great characters, taut plot, sleep-interrupting suspense, and unexpected redemption yet with a note of ambivalence and ambiguity. This is a book that deserves much more attention than it's gotten. It's a book I wouldn't mind being judged for one bit. Hell, I even tell my wife when I'm reading it again. And she rolls her eyes and pats me on the head — or maybe she's taking my temperature. I'll let you be the judge of that.
So now, I've confessed. Your turn. What's yours, the book or books for which you're okay about being judged?