Last Words: Novels And TV Shows - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Last Words: Novels And TV Shows

Last Words: Novels And TV Shows

Published August 27, 2018

Photos by
Art Bicnick

It would be an understatement to say that I like novels more than I do TV series.

I‘m making this slightly obnoxious declaration for a reason: increasingly, I‘ve been hearing people compare the two (very different) story-telling forms.

“Watching [insert name of American TV production] was just like reading a good novel!”––who hasn’t heard someone say that recently?

A well-fed person from L.A., someone who probably works in the TV industry, will then add:
“TV shows are the novels of today! This is the Golden Age of TV! ‘The Wire’… plenty of time to develop characters… ‘Breaking Bad’… longform storytelling… ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’… [insert more titles of American on-demand entertainment].”

This makes me want to scream. If anything, this is the golden age of saying meaningless things, of repeated banalities, a grumpy me (silently) retorts. And TV shows are not the novels of today, because the novels of today happen to be––well––novels.

A scary observation: People are now watching TV everywhere. We watch our pocket TVs on the subway, while we get haircuts, as we perform or receive plastic surgery. We have sex and swim in the sea and eat shrimp sandwiches on top of Icelandic mountains––as we either watch or make videos.

And, while we watch, the world around us disappears. As it becomes more homogenous and desolate, populated with ever fewer animals and plants, we dock into our screens as if we were children without any responsibilities. We binge-watch TV shows, and then claim that the experience is akin to something other than it actually is: namely, reading novels. Why?

Books are made with words. The words project images and ideas into our minds in a very different way than a TV show does––on the screen, the images are the same for each and every viewer.

Reading a book, however, is, at least for me, much more personal: the images are different for every reader.

A case in point: How do you think my facial expression was as I typed this? Do you dare imagine it?

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