Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book: Contact


If the T.C. Boyle collection was a personal breakthrough in literary tolerance then Carl Sagan's Contact was a miracle. Despite constant glaring offenses in the writing style and story framework I was able to participate with very little annoyance.

The book - though clearly fiction - reads often like biography or technical article. And when venturing into the softer matters - of the heart for instance - the narrative is brutally unsubtle. Incredibly I was okay with all this. The only sin that got me at all worked up was the terribly indulgent travelogue chapters that made the second of the book's three parts drag like a sonofabitch (yes - drag like a sonofabitch. What a brilliant simile, eh? I swear I'm gonna be famous one day with such scintillating description as this). The plot has the heroes travelling to different countries, the primary reason, apparently, being an excuse to regale the reader with historical and geographical factoids of the sort that Sagan clearly finds interesting and that this reader most fervently did not.

Aside from that I was thoroughly immersed in the book. Partly, I suppose, because I'd already developed significant trust and respect for Sagan through his other, technical, works and partly, I suppose, because of the subject matter, having to do with the future of humankind and the nature of the universe, being very near to my heart; being of intense interest to me.

I'd seen the movie a couple of times and loved it and was surprised - and disappointed, actually - to discover how closely the movie adhered to the book with regards to themes and the core speculations of the author. I'd hoped to absorb more advanced insights than I had gleaned from the film. Mind you the afterward seems to suggest that Sagan himself designed the concept of the movie and did so prior to writing the book.

Much of this work has to do with the rift between science and religion and some attempt to bridge it - or at least to propose commonality. I can see how this might have fascinated me at one time but at this stage of my exploration I'm far more interested in the gap between scientist and poet. This seems to be an outright war of paramount importance. At this time I can imagine no greater accomplishment in life than uniting the scientist and poet. I wonder often if such an endeavor is indeed the purpose that my own core work is evolving toward. I also wonder if such a dream is thoroughly and pathetically naive.

Anyone interested in cosmology, astronomy or theology, I suggest you'll find Contact entirely useful. As for all others - It's a great story. I beg you to experience it. But I suggest you choose between the movie and the book. You probably won't want to do both.



Kathleen said...

Do you recommend one over the other? I have to admit that I had zero interest in the movie, but I somehow missed the fact that it was based on a book by Carl Sagan which makes it more interesting. I'm thinking movie since I can Netflix it.

Anonymous said...

I liked to movie. My older kids liked the movie. My hubby? moaned and groaned and then LEFT the room becuase the three of us were glaring at him to shut up.

I should go check out that book, never read it.

Dave said...

The only thing I remember about the movie was the most awesome camera work while she's running through the house, up the stairs, into the bathroom and opens the medicine cabinet. All done in one non-stop cut, and being filmed from the inside of the medicine cabinet. It blew my mind.
I love those non-stop cuts like that. Same kind of thing in Children Of Men and Moulin Rouge (or was it Mr. Saturday Night?).
Don't recall much about the plot of most movies, but throw in some cool techie camera stuff and it stays with me for years.

Fantasy Writer Guy said...

Davey-boy Icing God: Yeah - they filmed it reflected off the bathroom mirror - but it's a bit of a trick. They spliced two cuts together because the mirror reflection could not possibly reach the downstairs foyer area where the scene began. The cut is well done but not seamless. I think it switches to slow motion where the cut is.

Supermom: There's no hope for your hub if he didn't like Contact!

Kats: Don't purchase the book. If you can borrow a copy give it a go. If the writing annoys you, switch to the movie. Or if you really like the book then see the movie too. Oh I don't know. The book among books is flawed. The movie is excellent as far as movies go. Just don't bother with the book if you've seen the movie first. Okay - I got it. Read the book first and then borrow the movie once you're on the last chapter. Finish the book and then immediately watch the movie. I've actually done this several times! Not with Contact though. Ee-gads. Don't ever ask me this question again!

Kathleen said...


Anonymous said...

Even though I liked the movie a lot (my favorite scene was when jodie was weightless and said "i had no idea"), I thought the book was quite a bit better. The ending in particular was superior to the movie - with the revelation related to "pi" (I won't spoil the twist ending) and the way the plot line related to her father was resolved.


Babs Gladhand said...

Loved the movie, but haven't read the book.