Changing Places

April 6, 2013

E-books, tablets, iPads, they are flipping the concept of an ending. With DVDs and Blu-rays and VOD, all movies now have trackers, slide bars, countdowns, to tell you when the end is near, how close we are to completion. Used to be, we would sit in a dark theater, and you would have to guess, through the course of the narrative, when the movie would end. And some movies were really good at giving false indications, or no indications, when the the credits would roll. For example, I was fortunate to record my thoughts during the multiple climaxes (and not the good kind) for Face/Off

“Awesome, they are going to have the final shootout in the church. This should be great. Ok, now they are in a graveyard. Good, good. Slight change of scenery isn’t bad for the big climax. And this should be the… wait, holy s*&t, now they’re chasing each other in boats. What the hell, will this movie never end…?”

Really, I could still be in the theater, waiting for the next reel of Cage and Travolta beating on each other (and again, not the good kind). Both would probably like to go back to that point in their respective careers and live the rest of their lives in a perpetual chase scene.

For books, it was the opposite. Back in the day, you could feel the heft of the pages, and as that stack got thinner, you knew you were getting close to the end.

Jane Austen even comments on this circumstance in Northanger Abbey, noting that the reader can see the end is coming. David Lodge plays with this concept later in his novel Changing Places. But now, when you are reading on a digital screen, the end of the book weighs the same as the beginning. This screen is replacing the physical reality of a book, and we no longer count pages to the end. Books and movies, they have changing places.

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