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The magic of literature caught on film — at last!

November 27, 2009

This being a holiday weekend, combined with my personal vow to not write another word about Sarah Palin if I can help it, I’ve had to range all the way to New Zealand for today’s topic. But the trip, I assure you, was worth it. At the end: an amazing short film that visualizes the magic that happens when you get caught up in a good book.

You can find the film, Going West, on YouTube and other sites, but let’s give credit where due, and watch it at the New Zealand Book Council‘s website.

I can only conclude that the New Zealand Book Council, which promotes reading in general and Kiwi literature in particular, must be one of the most effective reading advocacy groups in the world. This two minute film, produced by the creative team of Line and Martin Andersen, a London design studio, for the Kiwi advertising firm Colenso BBDO, is essentially a commercial for reading.

But what a commercial! Using stop-motion animation, it takes the pages of a book as the visual medium to illustrate the way images arise in a mind fully engaged in immersive reading. A voice-over reads a passage from Maurice Gee’s 1992 book, Going West. As Thom Geier remarked on Entertainment Weekly‘s Shelf-Life blog, “Try doing that with a Kindle!”

I’m anti-Kindle, too. The codex — the traditional bound book — is a perfect technology, one that cannot be improved upon for portability, functionality and durability. As I’ve said here, elsewhere and often, something essential–some aesthetic magic, conjured out of the feel and smell of paper– is lost when the printed word is converted to pixels. And yes, you could probably free up scads of wall space by downloading the books on my shelves into a single hand-held device, but, hey, some of us like books as an interior design motif.

But that doesn’t mean the New Zealand Book Council shares my old-fashioned disdain for reading books on electronic devices. In 2008, the council enlisted Colenso to build a Windows XP clone that allowed people to read books at work without arising boss suspicion — it looked like a Power Point presentation. Apparently technology has passed it by, though. no longer seems to be functioning site.

But what a great idea. Even if it was only a publicity stunt to draw attention to books and reading — that’s my suspicion — it goes to show how inventive those Kiwis can be. Maybe I’ll hunt out some New Zealand writers. If the advertising agencies are this good, maybe the novelists are, too.

I suppose I should start with Maurice Gee, who I admit I never heard of before yesterday. Apparently he’s one of New Zealand’s most distinguished writers. I’d say that represents a job well done by the New Zealand Book Council.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 27, 2009 10:48 pm

    Love all your blogs – and thanks for David Plumb — good introductio to someone I hadn’t known about — my kind of poetry There are ALL kinds, you know!
    And the Book Fair was awesome, especially if you were ten people.
    And how do you manage to do this EVERY day ?????

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    November 28, 2009 2:36 am


    I’m a trained professional, don’t try this at home. Trained, I might add, in the old media. I learned how to do this working for newspapers and magazines. Let’s pause for a moment in their memory.

    The book fair was awesome, as always, and David Plumb is a new discovery for me, too. I’ve known him slightly for years, but only discovered his poetry recently. Awed, I was.

  3. November 30, 2009 1:00 pm

    Where books come to life, indeed! What a treat. Thanks for sending the link. And now I have to go check out David Plumb. Never heard of him till now. Need to get out of my cave more often.

  4. November 30, 2009 2:09 pm

    Frankly I couldn’t concentrate on the words with all those images popping up from and rippling across the pages.

    For me it’s the words that do it, not visual aids, the words provoke images to appear within the infinite expanse bounded by the skull’s walls. And I agree — the words are best from a book, from pages that are bound within covers and can be held in two hands and gazed upon by two eyes – or, of course, a voice in the ear. But first and foremost the words, the language.

    I guess it was a good promotional — but will it inspire people to read or to go off
    in search of visuals?

  5. Connie permalink
    December 1, 2009 7:10 pm

    Perhaps I am immature, but I can’t help but think of Flight of the Conchords when I read anything about the New Zealand tourism industry. Murray: Present!

  6. Connie permalink
    December 1, 2009 7:11 pm

    By the way, if I get rid of my books, there will be no “decorating” in my house. Hence, I too shun the Kindle.

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