Authors, Reading and The Reading Culture
For some time now, I have been having an internal debate on an interesting topic. I have always been fascinated by books and other forms of writing. I personally believe that many other forms of art are built on the foundations of an idea articulated in a written form – from movies to songs, etc.
It is saddening most times to discover that authors are not well compensated for their masterpieces. Some who are in the fictional genre get it better due to the fact that most people tend to enjoy stories that are intriguing and they can relate with. In actual fact; some of these authors paved way for great movies. The success of the Harry Potter series was phenomenal and catapulted J.K Rowling from obscurity and penury to fame and wealth. The book series gave us some excellent movies that will remain etched in our memories. Another author who got huge success from his books getting adapted for the screen is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien who wrote Lord of the Rings. I must also mention a man I respect so much because of my love for legal intrigues – John Grisham. Some of his books like Pelican brief, a time to kill, etc have done well in the films. Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity and the sequels are another testimony to this fact. I must also remember the latest big movie of recent times – Slumdog millionaire which was adapted from Vikas Swarup’s book – Q & A.
These books have one thing in common. They were the basis for movies that shook the years they were released and still command respect till now. This brings me to the issue I am trying to raise. Most people have watched these movies but have not even seen a copy of the original book before. I will say that they are missing out a great deal as from my experiences from having read many books that were translated to movies – I can confidently say that the best representation is found in the books. The books can never ever be correctly depicted by the screenplay.
I guess it is an issue with our reading culture. If people don’t even read fictions which are mostly easy to decipher; how can they proceed to the level of serious books that do much more in advancing the intellect? That is the salient question and I am challenging all to review this.
Another point I want to raise is recognition. The authors I mentioned earlier are part of the few select who enjoy huge readership and succeeded on the screen. They were also wise enough to have good agreements with the producers of the movies maybe due to hindsight or luck. Many other authors are not that lucky and some with great works were neither recognized nor enjoyed financial rewards for their works.
Let us come home. Growing up, I read a lot of nice books and I can say that it was a great experience for me. The African Writers Series did me a lot of good from Chinua Achebe’s books – Arrow of God, Things Fall Apart, No Longer at Ease to T.M Aluko’s One Man, One Wife and One Man, One Matchet including Ngugi Wa Thiongo’s The River Between and Vicious Cycle. Can I forget Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom? Nopes and many more books from that wonderful collection. If I can recollect very well – only Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart has made it into the screens from the above list. I watched part of it but I must say that the original is far far ahead.
There is a professor and author called Chukwuemeka Ike. His books were published under Fontana books if I am correct. I read two of his books – Toads for Supper and the Potter’s Wheel. Both books will forever be printed on my mind because they addressed a lot of Nigerian issues but tinged with wonderful humor that makes you ask for more. I heard that he just came out with a sequel to Toads for Supper titled Toads For Ever. I must look for the book.
Chinua Achebe and some few Nigerian authors are known to some of us. The list should include the Nobel Laurette – Wole Soyinka, Elechi Amadi (He was kidnapped in the Niger Delta recently and released later) of The Concubine fame, Zulu Sofola, Cyprian Ekwensi and lately Chimamanda Adichie etc. But just a few of them can really say they gained much apart from the sparring goodwill here and there and the satisfaction that comes to the man/woman of artistic abilities. To be sincere, a lot of graduates might not even know these names, which is a big shame and the pointer to the level of rot in the educational systems and the disdain we have of books.
The Americans should thus be praised for being wise enough to understand the wisdom of using great books as materials for their booming Hollywood film industry. One of the problems with Nigerian Nollywood films is content. Most of the films are total nonsense with no intellectual or reasoning stimulation at all, you can actually know where the films are going to end from seeing the titles alone.
I guess a way to reward our talented writers is to use their materials and pay accordingly. That is where producers like Tunde Kelani got it right from producing plays like O le Ku written by Professor Akinwumi Ishola. I know a lot of people who went to buy the book after watching the film. This might also be a way of improving our reading culture. I will be very happy to see Potter’s Wheel and Toads for Supper on the screens.
As we try to salvage our continent from underdevelopment; the role played by the acquirement of knowledge cannot be over-emphasized and there must be a conscious effort aimed at improving our intake of intellectual materials. It is only then that we can move ahead as a nation and a continent as a whole. Read a book today and it will save you some embarrassment in the future.