Over the weekend I had a moment that made me realize that there is a gulf that separates us book geeks from the rest of the world. My husband and I had a chance to go out without the kids on Saturday night. We decided to have dinner and see a movie. My husband likes to see comedies and I like drama. We usually flip a coin to see who chooses the movie. On Saturday night, I won, and I chose to see The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck (the younger, and, in my opinion, more talented, brother of Ben Affleck). The movie was great, but long — two hours and forty minutes. Afterwards, my husband asked me if I liked the movie.
Me: I thought it was great. You know, it was based on a book, a novel, written by Ron Hansen. He’s an English professor from Santa Clara University (our alma mater).
Him: Didn’t you think it kind of lacked the typical action of a Western? I expected a lot more action.
Me (falling into pompous English teacher/wannabe film critic mode): It was more a character study than a Western. As such, the pacing was good. It was just like a novel — a gradual exposition, rich dialogue, characters in conflict with themselves as well as those around them. The action was focused on the revelation of character rather than around a plot device. The movie may have lacked momentum, but it was rich in detail.
Him (suspiciously): But it’s supposed to be a movie, not a novel. Why’d you want to see it? Oh, wait. I know. (Smirking.) It’s because Brad Pitt is in this movie, isn’t it?
Me: Well, actually . . . no. It was because I saw a preview of this movie a while back and the preview showed Casey Affleck (who plays Robert Ford) looking at a bunch of Beadle’s dime novels that featured Jesse James. I really wanted to see the dime novels in that scene up close, so I thought I should see the movie when it was released. Truthfully, though, I was a bit disappointed that they only showed the books in one scene that lasted about five minutes.
Him (staring at me with mouth agape, as if wondering if I am actually the woman to whom he’s committed the rest of his life): We went to see a two hour and forty minute movie for a five minute scene of old books?
Me: That’s right. Weren’t they beautiful? The colors on the cover illustrations were so vivid. I wonder if they use the actual dime novels or make their own facsimiles.
Him: (Stunned silence as he realizes that he has lost his wife — not to Brad Pitt, but to books.)
Tomorrow: The Education of a Bookseller