Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Wonder

Sometimes I wonder, after reading a book, if the book was really that good...or did my overactive imagination have a role in it?

You see, I don't just read. I experience a book. Maybe that sounds strange, but it's true. If the author goes to the trouble of describing the hero, I SEE him, right down to facial expressions and intonation of voice. If the book is really good, I find myself mentally "casting" the characters as if I'm going to be in charge of a "soon to be released motion picture". And no, Brad Pitt does not get a call from central casting. In fact, very few "major" stars get a calling to my mental movies...unless they play a second banana. I was very saddened to hear that Tom Sizemore had taken the wrong road because I'd always cast him as the rumpled Detective in Patricia Cornwall novels. Hugh Laurie of "House" fame wrote "The Gun Seller" and because of the hero's wit, it was easy to cast Laurie in the part, right down to the all knowing smirk. Ironically this one is being cast as a movie and Laurie doesn't think himself right for the hero's role.

I think part of the enjoyment of reading for me is the casting process, which in a way brings a character truly to life. It's also part of the reason that I tend to shy away from books on tape. The only one I ever listened to that came close was read by actor Will Patton and it was a sequel to Forrest Gump. Patton managed to continue in the vein created by Tom Hanks on screen without me having to block out the fact I know what Patton [another beloved second banana] looks like.

All of this occurred to me the other day as I was reading the 5th in a series of 7 of the "Dark Tower" series by Stephen King. Here I was in my 5th volume large enough to give you carpal tunnel syndrome just from holding it when I realized I STILL wasn't sure what hero Roland looked like. Part of the problem is I once worked with a cranky, older, balding gentleman named Roland who smoked a pipe. He wasn't very pleasant and certainly didn't bring to mind any heroic ideals. Secretly I was angry with King for using that name until I discovered that he'd gotten the idea from an epic Robert Browning poem entitled "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came". Okay, it was an explanation but I still don't care for the name. In fact, I found myself having a difficult time "putting faces" on most of the cast of characters...well, except the ones that died. Ironically, I saw them as the same three poor stunt guys who've been killed off in almost every action film I've ever seen. My husband and I have all but named them at this point because finding them in the credits is next to impossible. But the two which bothered me the most, in terms of not being able to see, where Roland and Father Callahan...the reformed alcoholic, former priest drawn into this most unusual quest. You'd think, even as a Baptist, I could envision a priest. But I couldn't seem to come up with the right amount of holy, battered, yet tough as nails.

The latest volume, a HUGE paperback, came with illustrations. And that's when the battle really began. There is a seemingly stupid robot named Andy which I cast in my head as C3PO with an even snootier accent and an agenda. At one point in the saga, the kid in the book even points out the resemblance to the same Star Wars character. The illustrator stretches the annoying robot into something unrecognizable to both King's words and my imagination. It was at that point I thought, "Get out of my story, Illustrator Guy!"

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's self defeating when it's not the right picture.

So today I pick up Volume 6 and slowly Roland's image is coming to me. All, oddly enough, because of something King admitted at the end of Vol. five. He dedicated the book to "Frank Muller, who hears the voices in my head." King goes on to say that Muller had recorded the first four of the Dark Tower novels-a total of 60 cassettes that are UNABRIDGED! Muller has recorded over 500 novels but told King that the Dark Tower series was his favorite. King explained that he was overwhelmed how his friend had been able to breathe life into the characters until they became actual people...to him, the author. Great! I thought. I'll just find the audio version for Vol. 7 and see if ol' Frank and I agree on what I've been reading. By then I'll be very sure of Roland's and the priest's appearances. I'm curious to see if the three of us agree.

But sadly there was a footnote that Frank had been in a motorcycle accident and suffered severe brain trauma. He survived, but will probably live the rest of his life in the N.C. center he entered for rehab after the accident. Because the expenses will be astronomical in the long run, King and several other writers got together and created a foundation to help offset the expenses. The original fund has been reestablished and donations can now be made by following this link: http://66.129.72.58/Restricted/patient-detail.cfm?pat_id=1486.

I was curious [imagine that!] and went to the site in order to see this man who will never be able to tell me the story I wanted to hear. I took one look at his smiling face and thought, "That's my Father Callahan!"

So Mr. Muller, you may never be able to tell me the story, but I'll be taking you along for the rest of the journey. I say thankya. Big-big.

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