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Book-to-Movie Quandary and Review: A Walk in the Woods

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I know it’s a struggle for some to decide between reading the book first or watching the movie, a dilemma voiced by The Daily News in regard to the book-turned-movie A Walk in the Woods.

Halfway through the seven magical and impossible-to-put-down Harry Potter books (I’d spend hours locked in the bathroom, my favorite reading place, ripping through these things multiple times), I decided to see the first film in the theater: all was ruined. Hagrid was much shorter than I envisioned, the headmaster more twinkly eyed, and Professor McGonagall not Maggie Smith. No offense, Dame Smith. You were fantastic in Hook.

Also, let’s make this happen.

Recently, it’s been all I can do to refrain from watching Game of Thrones. Having finished the first book, I’d be safe watching the first season, but, as with the otherwise exceptional Harry Potter films, I’d lose all the imagery and character development I ascertained from the books. Although they did capture Snape EXACTLY as I had pictured in my mind.

This September, those who fear films shattering their carefully constructed characters (unavoidable alliteration, sorry), including myself, will have to make the decision when Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods goes to the screen.

Robert Redford will play Bryson, while (and more believable in my opinion, though I’m hoping to be proven wrong) Bryson’s kvetching hiking companion, Stephen Katz, will be played by Nick Nolte. The storyline has the pair attempting to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail cutting northeast from Georgia to Maine.

Bryson’s short travelogue is compactly packed as always with the more interesting historical and intriguing tidbits about the Trail and the small towns in its path.

What sets A Walk in the Woods apart from Bryson’s other books, such as At Home and The Mother Tongue, is its attempt (and success, I think) at capturing the dynamic between Bryson and Katz as well as the whole idea of travel and everything that come with it: dreadful wrong turns upturning an itinerary (like missing a destination by a half a mile and ending up hiking nonstop for nine hours), heart-palpitating dangerous situations, dashed hopes and failures, mental fatigue (“I’m finally here and I should look around, but I really just want to hole up in a comfy hotel room with a tv”), mind battles (“Why am I doing this again?”), and the mixed feelings of accomplishment (“I’m gonna do this again next year!”).

Which may adversely leading to some adopting the Bernard Black philosophy on life.

Which may adversely lead to some adopting the Bernard Black philosophy on life.

The book (and fingers crossed for the movie) shows the complicated and wonderful notion of travelling, of going out into the unknown and, afterwards, hopefully having a story – good or bad – to tell. If anything, it really shows how difficult it is to find a decent travel partner.


Written by Robin Lee Dunlap

August 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

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