As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I often post questions. Part of the reason is that I find the whole social media thing a little me-me-me oriented, and as a good Midwestern boy, I was raised to find relentlessly talking about myself impolite. But the larger part of the reason is that I'm fascinated by the answers.
Yesterday, my question was this: "What's a book or movie that you've read or watched over and over? Ready, Go."
As of this writing, 49 people have responded. Here are some of the big winners, mentioned multiple times:
- To Kill A Mockingbird (book and film)
- The Star Wars Trilogy (the real one, not the one for the kiddies)
- The Last of the Mohicans (film)
- The Lord of the Rings (films)
- Catcher in the Rye
- North by Northwest
- The Godfather
- The Shawshank Redemption
- Mystic River
But the more I look at it, the more sense I see. These are all big titles, by which I don’t mean so much that they made a lot of money, though they did, or that they were sweeping in scope, though most of them were.
No, the bigness I mean here is something else. It’s an ineffable sort of bigness. A sense that the story has weight, heft. Something that will endure.
That makes sense, of course, since my question was about books and movies that people have enjoyed multiple times. But as a writer, it’s also an interesting and daunting thing to recognize.
Something made these big. It didn’t just happen. A quality in the idea, or in the telling, or both, took these beyond the norm.
The vast majority of books and movies come out, live their day, and fade into the background. They aren’t lost, but they aren’t likely to get three or four mentions on a list like this. They aren’t likely to haunt the collective imagination of a wide group of people.
If I have a point, I suppose it’s this—I wonder if, as writers, this is a worthwhile test to apply to our own work. It would be a painful one, no question. This is a scary ass hurdle to put before yourself while you’re trying to create something from nothing.
But maybe it’s a good one. Maybe it can help. Maybe, if nothing else, aiming for bigness has value.
Meanwhile, I’d love to see more answers to this question. What book have you read a number of times? What movie can you always watch again?