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The joys of reading a book

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Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:52 am

I entered college as a journalism major, but exited with a B.A. in English.

The switch may seem puzzling but really comes down to one thing – I will look for any reason to count reading as doing work. Whether it was a spring afternoon of Charlotte’s Web on the swing set when I was young or speeding through Paradise Lost sophomore year in the Boston Public Garden before finals, I loved having an excuse to read.

One high school summer, I carried stacks of books home from the library with an ambitious (and irrational) resolve to read all the “classics” and discovered Austen, Orwell and Dickens. From the horrifying twist at the end of “Rebecca” to Cather’s pioneer life, I refined my tastes and discovered that I prefer the Brontës’ moors to Hemingway’s grappa.

As much as I complained in college about the backlogged list of books I always procrastinated on reading, one of the parts of student life that I miss most is being surrounded by a group of people reading and sharing literature.

But another aspect of my book obsession is something that has annoyed all of my groups of friends over the past few years. I refuse to see a movie before I’ve read the book.

I have made a few exceptions to this rule for “The Help” and other more modern novels, but one of the few reasons I’m wading through “Anna Karenina” and have “The Hobbit” on my shortlist is because of upcoming movie releases.

The central reason behind the madness that has delayed many a move outing with friends is that once I see movies, books are ruined. The enchantment of reading is deeply connected with conjuring new worlds and images in the mind’s eye with no preconceived notions. Once someone else’s image is in place, there’s no going back.

And so, this weekend, I once again found myself delaying a trip to the movies as I spent Saturday finishing “Life of Pi,” a fascinating, surrealist story of a boy’s Robinson Crusoe-esque account of shipwrecked survival, but with a Bengal tiger.

The tale is a strange and colorful one that takes the reader or viewer through the kaleidoscope of emotions experienced by hero Pi Patel in his journey. At its center, without revealing too much, it is a story about the power of narrative.

That theme of story-telling permeates through in both mediums – page or screen – but as usual, the brilliance of the book and its depiction of personal evolution are difficult to convey fully in film form. Pi’s journey is beautiful in the movie theater, but more personal in the book.

I’ll still put my vote in for experiencing the story in its original form first and grasping its wisdom about that story’s power on the printed page, but whichever way – or both – Willistonites choose to experience it, the story is worth the trip to the library or movie theater.

Ebersole is a reporter for the Williston Herald. She can be reached at 572-2165 or by email at jebersole@willistonherald.com.

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