Everything was not illuminated

A thousand sadnesses. I just went to see Everything is Illuminated tonight with my peeps Joy, Kyle, and Marcia.

Everything is Illuminated book coverSeveral weeks ago I saw a trailer for this movie and was captivated, as much by the imagery as the song towards the end, Devotchka’s How it Ends. But there was something about the title, the phrase Everything is Illuminated which had been lost on me, obscured by the whimsical script on the book cover. Those words, “Everything is Illuminated” seem to have this grandness, like the sound of the air rushing into the tomb of Tutankhamen when it was reopened. Like the beginning and end wrapped into one. Like the ultimate coda. Or maybe I just really like the memory of having heard someone say those words.

Part of my concern in all this is how do you gauge a book well enough to determine whether it’s worth investing the time and mental space to read? The cover and jacket text can’t be trusted, they’re painstakingly crafted by market research panels to create a deep psychological desire to buy the book, and then maybe read it. I can’t read long book reviews by people who review books professionally. What do they know about me or what I’m looking for in a book, especially considering that they read and write about books for a living. Which I find highly suspect. Writing about writing that is.

Lately I’ve determined that trailers (for movies based on books) are especially persuasive and informative about the content of a book. Yes they are painstakingly crafted to get me into the movie theater to buy popcorn, with no ethical responsibility to hold true to plot of the film. But if I redirect that desire and go read the book, well then, I’ve shown them haven’t I? Not exactly sure if my thoughts on this have changed any since seeing the new trailer for the Shining.

Everything is Illuminated movie posterAnd so it was that I watched the trailer for Everything is Illuminated back in August and was captivated. I picked up the book and read it and loved it. And tonight I watched the movie, and it was incredible to see Eugene Hutz (lead singer for Gogol Bordello) play the role of the Alex, in fact that reason alone is enough to see the movie. But that’s really all there is. There’s a nice field of sunflowers, an image used frequently in the marketing for the film, but conspicuously absent in the actual book.

It’s such a cliche to hear someone say “They changed the ending” but it’s true. Based on what I understand of the ending—Everything is Illuminated is not a book that you get after one reading, I admit—they changed the RELIGION of a primary character. WTF? Are you even allowed to do that in a book about the Holocaust? It’s funny because I treat the book as a sort of truth and the movie seems almost like a lie. Or like something seriously got lost in translation.

So think about adding the movie to the end of your Netflix queue so you can see Eugene Hutz as Alex Perchov. And then think about reading the book—the first 6 pages are online at Amazon. And we all should make a note to check out Gogol Bordello’s latest album Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike.

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