I’m teaching it at the moment. And, inspired by Pierre Bayard’s How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, I’ve been encouraging my students to read the cultural context surrounding the book in addition to the words on the page. Today, we conducted a very unscientific survey. Of the 26 people my students spoke with…
- 12 had never heard of either the movie or the book;
- 14 had heard of the movie;
- 11 had seen it (most of them remembered it as having been “good,” though one person said it had been boring);
- 1 could identify the film’s director;
- 5 could name an actor who’d been in it (though they all named the same one—this one, in fact);
- 4 knew that the film had been based on a book;
- 2 had read that book;
- none could identify the book’s author.
The result I find most interesting is the fact that only one person could identify the film’s director, who is in fact one of the most famous living American directors (and whose name is always a big part of the advertising for his films). I would have thought that fact more generally known, but these (admittedly small) results indicate the contrary. (I suspect that number would have been higher eight years ago, when the film came out.) I was also surprised that fewer than half the people who said they’d seen the film could name even one actor who’d appeared in it.
As for myself: I heard of the movie before I heard of the book, and couldn’t name the book’s author until I bought a copy a few weeks ago. (I still haven’t seen the film yet; we’re watching it next week.)