Movies are Making It Hard for Me to Recommend Books

I sell books for a living.  And I love it.  I love that I always have an excuse to spend way too much time reading in my free time.  I love getting to see other people discover a great book for the first time.  And I love recommending books to people.  But there is something I am getting incredibly tired of hearing: “Oh, I saw the movie of this one.”

While some movie adaptations make really rocket book sales (hello, Me Before You), it makes other books impossible to sell, especially once the movie has been out for a while.  And every time I recommend a great book and I hear “I saw the movie,” I want to scream.  Yes, you may have seen the movie, but the book is a completely different experience.  Movies always change things and reading a book and watching a movie are completely different experiences.  And it seems that movies, while broadening a book to a new audience, is also killing those very books they are adapting.

Here’s an example: Atonement by Ian McEwan.

Even searching to find this picture, I had to week through tons of pictures of the movie poster and many websites devoted to the movie before I found anything talking about the book.

Atonement is honestly one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.  McEwan’s prose is some of the best I have ever read, reminding me a lot of Jane Austen.  In 2007 it was made into a film starring Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards.  While the movie is great, I was sad to see that it was mostly visual.  A lot of what happened we learned through silent scenes in which the visuals and Oscar-winning music explained what was happening.  Dialogue in parts of the film was incredibly minimal or didn’t exist at all.  There are many parts of the book that I filled in because the movie never said them.  Suddenly, the language that I had loved so much was gone.  The movie is good but it is a completely different experience from the book.  While the plots line up, I didn’t think of them as all that similar.  And so I want people to read the book.  I want them to experience this amazing piece of art but they won’t because they have already seen the film.  I have had customers explain the kind of book they are looking for (“a modern classic,” “something with beautiful prose,” for example) and have very excitedly handed them this book, thinking that I have nailed it.  But they have no interest.  Because they saw the movie.  It has become impossible for me to sell this book.  And I have honestly stopped actively trying.  Because I can’t face the disappointment.  Every once and I while I will try again just to face the same result.

I guess this is all to say that, even if you have seen the movie, you should still read the book.  The order doesn’t matter.  Support the authors that have created your favorite stories by reading their books.  Round out your movie experience by seeing what part of the world the movie didn’t show.  A two-hour movie cannot possibly show everything that was written in the book.  By deciding not to read something just because you have seen the movie, you are creating a void in your literary life.  And that makes me sad.

A couple of other books that movies were made of that are still amazing and you should still read them:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (The movie, while written by Goldman, is VASTLY different from the book.  The book is a completely unique experience.  I’m not going to explain it any more.  JUST READ IT.)

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trooper (This book is great and oh so goofy. While Trooper also wrote the movie for this one, he made some important character changes.  This is just a fun read that will make you laugh and make you cry and it should not be overlooked.)

(There are tons of other books that are amazing that were made into movies but these are the ones that I find myself trying hard to sell yet failing 99% of the time.)

So please.  Do me a favor.  Find a movie you like that was based on a book and pick up the book.  Or read one of the ones I have listed here!  If anything, it will round out your experience of the movie and allow you to say thing like “Well, the movie changed [insert changes here]” and then you can sound super cool and literary.  If anything, you will find entertainment for a period of time.

Woo books!


Pigeon Update!

Hey everyone!  I know that it has been a while since I last wrote and so I think that it is a great time to give you all what I know you have been long waiting for: a pigeon update.

The Pigeon King continues to disrupt my sleep and scare the crap out of me.

Following my first blog post about the Pigeon King, my friend Jessica stayed the night and, gearing up for that night, I though, Perfect!  She will finally hear him and then I won’t be alone and crazy sounding and someone else will understand my fear!  I’m going to leave this window air conditioner in the window even though it is cold out because it will help her to hear the terrible death coos! And then the Pigeon King promptly disappeared for two days. Radio silence.  Jessica spent the night and nothing happened.  While this may not have proved anything to her, it proved something to me: the Pigeon King was on to me.  He knew that I knew about him.

This got me to thinking.  And I realized that in the week leading up to this moment, I had run across a lot of dead pigeons in my path.  First, there was one waiting for me as I walked down the stairs from the train on my way to work.  Then, the next day, there was a dead, headless pigeon on the sidewalk outside of my apartment.  Finally, there was a day when I got to work to find a pigeon squashed on the street in front of the store.  These memories lead me to an epiphany.  The Pigeon King wanted to warn me.  He wanted to show me my fate and let me know what happened to pigeons (and by extension, other living beings) that got in his way.

My friends tried to calm me down and convince me that everything would be alright.  The following conversation took place over a group text:

Jessica: “When I tell your story on TAL I’ll be sure to mention that we named all of those night pigeons who tried to protect you from the Pigeon King.  We knew they were the good ones.”

Abi: “We should find a way to aid the pigeon rebellion.”

I was feeling pretty good about this until I realized that the fate of those three pigeons could be the fate of my friends!  No one is safe from the Pigeon King.  So that started panicking me.  And then I received the following text from my brother: “I just realized that I started to write a plat some years back about a monarchical giant pigeon society that would abduct people and make them do their bidding.  I hope that doesn’t happen to you.”  What the hell?  Since when could he tell the future!?  This is all too crazy weird.

Finally, a week or so later, Jessica spent the night again.  And this time she heard the terrible, scary noises!  The air conditioner is gone from the window but it turns out that he is so aggressively loud that you can hear him with exactly the same clarity through glass!  And, since I have removed the cardboard which was the easy way into the room, he has taken to throwing himself against the window, making this amazingly frightening large crashing noise.  And Jessica experienced it all. I interviewed her about her experiences and this was her response:  “We went to bed at like 3am, probably more like 3:30am, and he was outside the window, flapping his way outside the window… like repeatedly against the window.  It felt like he would hit the window and then go down the windowsill and then come back, squawking very loudly… I’m not sure I exactly know what a pigeon usually sounds like regularly but it sounded aggressive.  It woke me up.”  And, she let it be known that she feared for her life.  So take that, world!  I’m not crazy!  At least, not about this.

I would also like to mention, before I end this post, that my friend Sarah told me that I should make a radio piece about this.  So I have been trying to record the sounds the King Pigeon makes but he either gets really quiet when I start recording or the recordings come back just sounding like static.  So, he can see through blinds and he has control over electronic devices.  Clearly those are the only possibilities of what is happening here.

My Walk to Work

A couple of weeks ago I realized that if I walk to the train rather than waiting for the bus, I can leave my apartment 15 minutes later. And so I have found myself taking a daily 15 minute walk. Usually this is fine and everything seems normal. I listen to podcasts and have a grand ole time.

Today was different. The walk was still pleasant, don’t get me wrong, but everything seemed weird.

You know at the beginning of horror films when someone moves to a new small town and they start noticing how weird everyone in town is?  These scenes always take place with the main character walking down the street, looking around and slowly realizing that something is incredibly off with their new home. Well, today I was that main character.

The beginning was great and I was feeling good about using my feet to get me from one place to another. Look at me, I thought. I’m getting some  exercise. That means I can eat cake when I get to work!

And then I started encountering bike girl.  She was the harbinger of the weirdness that was to come.  When I first passed her, she was walking her bike, which was a pink number and really recognizable.  A minute or so later she biked past me and promptly got off her bike.  So I passed her again.  Three-ish minutes later she passed me again.  I thought nothing of it until a couple minutes later when I looked up to see her walking her mike back toward me.  She turned into a parking lot but not before she gave me a real good once over.  It was disconcerting.

Right after I got away from bike girl, I passed by the Fire Station.  Outside sat a firefighter.  He had dragged a chair outside which was weird because he had set it next to a bench that was permanently out there.  But apparently this bench isn’t good enough for butts, only feet for that is what he was using it for.  He was just sitting out there, butt in chair, feet on bench, casually smoking cigar while playing on his smartphone.  He felt like he was from two different time periods.  I remember thinking, that’s weird but not really thinking much else of it.  Looking back, he was exactly the kind of random townsperson that you would see in a horror film town.

This next encounter is where it got weird.  I reached a street corner and there was an old lady sitting in a chair.  She had brought a chair out to sit on the little patch of grass between the sidewalk and the road.  And there she sat, looking like Whistler’s Mother if Whistler’s Mother found herself in 2015 on a street corner in Chicago with a dead and spooky look in her eyes.  This woman was even wearing old-timey clothes which just rounded out the weirdness and she was staring straight ahead at nothing.  It looked like she had been taken off of the porch of a horror film and dropped into my walk to work.  All that was missing was a rocking chair.  I might have actually run away if she had been in a rocking chair.  Gahh she was so creepy.

Finally, right after I had gotten past this creepy frozen lady, two small children on scooters can rolling at high speeds out of a side street.  They stopped at the same stoplight as me and we all waited.  When the light changed, I started walking and the kids hung back.  I walked on, thinking nothing of them.  And then I heard giggling coming toward me, quickly getting louder, and the two children appeared out of nowhere.  The younger of the two boys couldn’t have been older then three.  He just kept riding, getting further and further ahead until his mother yelled at him to stop. He came to a halt, got off his scooter, and giggled to himself.  He became that creepy child who looks at the ground, swimming back and forth, quietly laughing.  I was expecting his head to spin around at any second.  Why are kids to creepy?  I sped up and quickly walked past him.

When I got to the train stop, the street was blocked off because the train had to pass through so there were all of these people stuck coming out of the station.  To me, in my horror frame state of mind, they all looked like zombies.  And then the road blocks came up, the zombies all attacked, coming toward me as I tried to get to the train station.  I fought my way through them and got to the tracks.  Once on the train, I realized that I was in a car all by myself.  This is how I’m going to die, I thought.  King Pigeon didn’t succeed so I’m going to die on this train.  But people got on at the next stop and nothing happened.  And the same happened at the stop after that.  And I got off at the next one and went to work.  And everything was fine.

Turns out real life doesn’t always work like the movies, which is awesome!  Sometimes I wish it did, like in the movies where you have the person who was awkward in high school who becomes awesome and rich and doesn’t really seem to have to do anything other than be themselves to end up this way.  Like in 13 Going on 30 where all she had to do was make a collage like she used to do for fun and everything turns out perfectly.  It would be cool if life worked like those movies.  But it is days like this when I am glad that life isn’t always a horror film.  Sometimes a creepy old lady is just a creepy old lady and not a sign of what is waiting for me around the corner.

Life Can Be Hard When Your Hands Try to Stop Being Hands

The other day I got to work early.  I had had improv class before and didn’t have quite enough time to make it home and then get to work.  Plus, even if I was able to get home, I would have had to leave right away and what is the point in that?  Perfect, I thought to myself.  I am going to make myself a fancy flavored latte and sit and read Anna Karenina in the bookstore and be the most stereotypical bookstore person ever!  It’s going to be great!  And it would have been great.  If I wasn’t so incredibly klutzy.

So I got to work.  40 minutes early!  Everyone was surprised to see me.  “Wow!  You are so early!” they all said.  And I responded by saying, “I’m not going to start working yet!  I’m going to make myself a fancy latte and read Anna Karenina and be the most stereotypical person in the bookstore!”  So I put all of my stuff down and stared at all of the flavor options.  So many to choose from!  What did I want to put into my body?  After some intense thought and concentration, I decided on hazelnut.  So I poured some in the bottom of a large mug (because it had to be a large to fit into the image I was trying to create) and got to latte-ing.  I foamed my milk.  No problems there.  I went with decaf espresso because I can’t have caffeine and started pulling shots.  And since it was a large drink it needed two shots.  So I pulled the first shot. Everything was great.  Then I pulled the second one.   I wasn’t paying attention and started pouring it into my up only to realize that it hadn’t worked and I had just dumped hot water with a slight coffee infusion into my already-partially-made drink.  My heart sunk.  I dumped the drink, rinsed out the mug, and started the coffee process over again.  Syrup in the cup, check.  First shot, check.  I don’t know what it was with me and this drink and the second shot but this is where I ran into problems again.  I went to dump the shot into the cup and something happened (I think that I hit the milk steamer and then my hands forgot how to be hands) and the shot jumped into the air where it fell and hit the edge of the counter and exploded everywhere.  I found myself covered in coffee and the floor and counter were covered in coffee and everyone was staring at me.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  I just wanted to have this nice relaxing 20 minutes before work and now I found myself mopping the floor of the cafe.  By the time I got everything cleaned up and actually successfully made my drink (third time’s the charm!) I only had 5 minutes left until I was supposed to start.  So I sucked it up, clocked in, and actually started working.  No Anna Karenina was read that afternoon.  And my drink tasted like sadness and disappointment.  I guess this is what happens why I try to become a cliche.  So I guess that makes this a warning story.  If you try to be a cliche, your hands will stop working and you will find your newly clean pants covered in coffee and the floor will be slightly sticky for the rest of the night.  So keep that in mind and learn from my mistakes.  I guess, in a way, I have done you all a favor.  You are welcome.  Enjoy not smelling like sadness everywhere you go for a night!

(By the way, sadness smells a lot like spilled espresso.  Who knew?)

I Think The Pigeons Are Trying to Kill Me

Every night I go to sleep, afraid that tonight is going to be the night when the Pigeon King finally breaks into my room and kills me.

(Some backstory: I have a window air conditioner in my window but the unit is too small for how wide my window is so I have filled in the gaps with cardboard.  It looks weird but works fine except for the fact that the only thing protecting me from the outside world is two small pieces of cardboard that are connected to the window frame with only some masking tape.)

The sketchy install job. Isn’t is beautiful?

My first night here, I realized the my windowsill is the hot spot for pigeon activity.  Pigeons come and hang out outside my window at all hours.  It was creepy but it never felt threatening.  Instead, I felt like I could hear them all socializing, like my window was the cool club that all the birds were choosing to hang out at.

A few weeks ago, all of that changed when there was a fight outside my window.  (It also could have been scary intense pigeon sex but I am going to say it was a fight for the purpose of my theory.)  There was a large kerfuffle and the happy, party-ing cooing stopped and was replaced by the most aggressive pigeons noises that I have ever heard.  (If you have never heard what a pigeon actually sounds like, this is a pretty good example.  Now imagine this but 20 times scarier and you have the Pigeon King.)  This new pigeon (who I will be calling the King Pigeon from now on) chased the others away one at a time and sat atop his throne for the very first time.  This is when I started to feel afraid for my life.  While I am not 100% sure what is going on with this pigeon, this is my theory.

Every night as I am about to fall asleep, the Pigeon King returns.  He reminds me that he is sitting there, waiting until I am least expecting them.  He wishes me a good night and starts talking to his minions, reminding them that he is in charge and that they need to do what he says.

Recently, at around 2 in the morning, the Pigeon King has started yelling loudly, waking me up to remind me that he is in control of the situation.  At this time, he has also started knocking on the cardboard.  I believe that he is wearing it down so that one of these days he can just burst in and be like, “I TOLD YOU I WAS COMING!  YOU SHOULD BE EXPECTING ME!  BOW DOWN TO THE PIGEON KING!  TIME TO DIE!”  Every time I hear this knocking sound, I imagine that I am going to roll over to find that the cardboard is gone and instead find a giant pigeon with glowing eyes staring at me.  But that has yet to happen.

I watched (or more heard, I couldn’t actually see anything) him chase away the other pigeons to get his hold on my windowsill and so I am only left to believe that he is coming for the whole apartment next.  And my window is the access point.  If he kills me, it will send a message to my roommates: Get out or this will happen to you.  And I think that they will probably chose to leave.

So, if you hear that I have died due to pigeon attack, we all know who to blame.  And if this does happen, I really think it would make a great This American Life story.  You know, something like “The Pigeon Whisperer: How one girl predicted her fate and the terrible bird that brought her down.”  This blog post will be my voice in the episode.  And my family and friends can tell stories about me and say things like they thought I was making up a crazy story and just being paranoid about the birds outside my window when really I was telling the truth and they wished that they had listened to me but they hadn’t so they want the world to know what really happened and who I really was so I don’t just go down in history as the girl who died at the hands (talons? feet?) of the Pigeon King.  (If someone from TAL is reading this, I would be happy to make a recording of this post so that if my terrible demise does come, there will be audio of me telling my story.  Just let me know.)

…I think that it is time to take the air conditioner out of my window…

New City, New Blog

A little over a month ago I made a huge life change and began my life as a real adult.  A moved to a city that I didn’t know very well in order to pursue my dreams of comedy.  (And, apparently, write really cheesy things in blog posts.)  Now that the craziness of moving has died down a bit and I know three different ways of getting myself to work, I feel like it is the perfect time to start writing again.  I realized that I hadn’t updated my old blog (which has the same name but was hosted by Blogger) and decided that it was time for a change.  So here I am.  On a new blog, in my new home.

Let’s do some catching up.  I have moved to Chicago and, even though it has been a month, it doesn’t really seem real.  I have two wonderful roommates (one of whom just started moving in today–exciting!) and work in an adorable bookstore.  The independent bookstore world is so nice compared to the corporate world that I lived in for so long.  Plus it’s nice to be surrounded by books again.  Even though it means that I have acquired way too many books in only the month I have been here… (I will never admit how many.  That number will just scare people, myself included.)  The one problem with the bookstore job is that my previous bookstore employment was only seasonal.  And so my brain keeps feeling like I have somewhere that I will be going in a month or so.  But that’s not true.  This is my life now.  Which is scary but also incredibly exciting.

Here’s me in front of my apartment the day I moved in!

I am more than halfway through level one of improv classes at The Annoyance and have signed up for level two so I am on my way of becoming a real life comedian!  Watch out, world!  Funny is coming your way!

I still have many things to learn, though, such as:

  • Where do I get a haircut?  (Real question, my bangs are crazy long, someone please help me with this one.)
  • What can I make for dinner that only uses ingredients I can find at the local grocery store that serves a very specific Hispanic population who have no interests in things such as tortellini that I have come to rely on?
  • How do I recycle when my building doesn’t?  (There is so much recycling in the kitchen right now.  Please save us from drowning in it!)
  • What podcasts do I listen to on my way to and from work once I catch up on This American Life?

This is only a small sampling of the many questions I have.  But I know that I will find the answers and get some great stories along the way.  And that is what this blog is for!  Keeping anyone who is interested updated on the crazy antics of my life.  (OK, I’m overstating.  They aren’t that crazy.)

Also, just to add a story about attempting to adult, I tried to make mac and cheese in the crockpot tonight.  I was so excited because I was being fancy and making fancy mac and cheese.  And it was terrible.  Just awful.  Not cheesy enough.  Not really anything at all.  Just so disappointing.  But I put the leftovers in the fridge because I can’t bring myself to throw away a pretty large amount of food.  That will be a task for tomorrow.

Alright, I am going to stop writing because I really should go to bed because I have to work tomorrow but first I have to find a UPS access point to pick up my new Converse (because my favorite pair ripped at work the other day and so I had to order new ones) and the UPS guy said that I wasn’t at my apartment when he came to get them which is ridiculous because the interwebs say that he came at 6:30 and I was just hanging out in my apartment waiting for the UPS guy at that time, purposely not going out so I could get my shoes.  So tomorrow I have to go to some place that is part of a 7-Eleven just so that I have shoes to wear for work tomorrow.  (That is a bit of a complain-y overstatement.  I have shoes to wear to work.  I would just like these ones.)

For real now.  I am going to stop writing.  Because no one wants to read more than this, especially when it isn’t a story and is just me blabbering on about my life in a completely unorganized manner.  I will be back though.  So watch out, world.  Portia is blogging.