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Do You Know Who Wrote Big Fish?

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.)

  • A. D. Jameson is the author of five books, most recently I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING: STAR WARS AND THE TRIUMPH OF GEEK CULTURE and CINEMAPS: AN ATLAS OF 35 GREAT MOVIES (with artist Andrew DeGraff). Last May, he received his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Program for Writers at UIC.

12 thoughts on “Do You Know Who Wrote Big Fish?

  1. I haven’t watched it in a long time and never read the book, but one thing on which all of my siblings and I agree: the film is the true story of our family. I know. That tells you more about my family than anyone ought to know, but there it is.

      1. I just finished reading it. I could dash your hopes, Molly, but I won’t, because I like you. But you can look forward to something of a plant theme. We watch the movie on Tuesday and Wednesday. I will report back!

      2. I read the book years before there was a movie, and loved it. I think I was maybe seventeen? Sixteen? Anyway, it’s good, so is Ray in Reverse.

  2. It’s been a few years since I read the book or saw the movie, but I remember both being spectacular. A great, outside-the-usual selection to think about side-by-side.

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