Friday, December 07, 2007

media we talk about: assorted thoughts

I had a conversation yesterday that dealt with the fact that when you put a bunch of (literary) academics in a room with each other, and perhaps some beer, they're (we're) much more likely to get into a heated conversation about movies or TV than about books. A couple of explanations were proffered, in ascending order of interest:

a) books are work, movies aren't;
b) we're more likely to have watched the same movies/TV shows recently than we are to have read the same books; which leads to
c) an important component of the viewing experience of visual media is our memory of having watched--where, when, how--and our misremembering of details of plot, character, etc. (with a nod to Stanley Cavell here). Watching a movie is always an event; it's Poe's ideal of the medium you consume in one sitting (Poe suggests 100 lines as the perfect length for a poem for this reason--more than that, your butt gets tired and your mind starts to wander). The amount of time you spend thinking about a movie can be much longer than the movie itself. Books, you can carry around with you, flip through the pages to find the part you don't quite remember. We're much less accustomed to relying on our memories of novels (poetry would be a different matter, I think, associated much more with a tradition of memorization).

Internets: what say you? Do you agree with the premise? What about TV shows, especially novelistic ones whose plot continues over many episodes/seasons (The Wire)?


Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I think those are all pretty valid reasons. There's the question of volume, for one thing: in the U.S. there are more books than television shows put out each year (generally speaking - or at least it's the case if you're talking about even semi-mainstream moments) and more television than movies.

But I think - and this sort of ties to that "books are work" notion - I think a lot of us are also more prone to talking about what we've done with our leisure time (and that's so often tv or movies).

I do have book stories though - I've met at least one friend entirely because of a book experience, and I can tell you then when's and how's of a few books. I wonder what some of those stories would be.

kermitthefrog said...

Also, there's definitely this sense (at least in the circles I run in) that we're undergoing a sort of TV flowering, that there are all sorts of great uses of the medium that beg discussing, while a lot of people I know aren't terrifically enthusiastic about contemporary fiction. I know I have a few authors I really enjoy, but that's about it.

And to add to what you were saying about leisure time, it's also possible, right, that we do talk about books a fair amount, but don't notice it, or just lump it under "thinking about work," rather than treating it as an equally entertaining conversational opportunity.

Now, I need to think about whether I've ever met someone (or become friends with them) through a book...