Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ba-dum Ba-dum

Check out what I found on the lakeshore recently!


It's probably a piece of ceramic (note the cracks) but at first I thought it was a tooth. I can't decide if the front or back looks more tooth-like.


This was a fun find, because I was reading JAWS during the time I found it. So, finding it on the sand, I immediately thought "shark tooth!" Nevermind that we don't have sharks around here.


Finding this "tooth" was as fun as that time I found a piece of creepy wood that looked just like the one I'd seen in The Fog! Also, that femur-like piece of wood. A reminder: The rocks have teeth!

JAWS was the book I brought along on our trip to Colorado. I read about one page on the way out there, but polished off quite a bit on the way home.


When I took the book out of my carry-on bag, I noticed something had pierced a hole through multiple pages of it! It could have been a pen I was carrying or some feathers I was bringing home. I wasn't even all that annoyed, because I thought it was fitting for this book. It looks like it survived a shark attack.

Chomp! Chomp!

I'll try to leave a relatively spoiler-free review of this book. I really liked it and recommend reading it. There isn't a boring moment. The book is far more complex than the movie, which I watched after finishing the book. The characters in the book have so many more dimensions and are far less likable than they are in the movie. That's part of what kept the pages turning. I kept wondering "Are they really going to do that?" (For the most part, yes they are)


Actually, the only man I did like in the book was the police chief (Brody). He wasn't perfect, but he did the absolute best a person could do in his situation. And he recognized his flaws and tried to work through them. I found him very sympathetic. I can't say I really liked any women in this book. The woman who was closest to being likable was an old lady who works in the post office, and she just rants about the shark being God's wrath. So yeah, there weren't any likable female characters here. In fact, when I saw that the police chief's wife was going to be in the movie, I was disappointed. I couldn't stand her character in the book! Turns out I didn't need to worry, because she was cool in the movie.



As for Hooper the scientist, he was awful in the book too! In the movie he's a funny, friendly guy you want to hang out. It's like night and day. That's no accident. I read that Steven Spielberg asked Richard Dreyfuss not to read JAWS, because he didn't want him to act at all like the scientist in the book. Spielberg was even less forgiving than I am about the characters in the JAWS book. I read that he didn't like a one of them and found himself rooting for the shark!
Now, I didn't want Jaws to eat everyone in the book, just most of the characters! I was seriously thinking "I could make a list of who could be shark-bait in this story". But you don't always get the justice you're looking for in this one. And I think that was part of the point. The author drove home that this is a fish that is purely an eating machine. The shark doesn't have human emotions, and he's not evil. It's hard not to think of the shark as a villain, but he's really just a shark being a shark. And if you think about the shark like that, it's truly terrifying. You can't reason with this creature; it will eat you if you're nearby. It's a seemingly random story about people who are in the water at the wrong time. Although, I will say Jaws seems to have far more strategies than I would expect a shark to have. 


JAWS is a book that deals with class divisions, status symbols, status in general, greed, jealousy, and money, money, money. I guess that's what all those things fall under really: money. There are characters in this book whose priorities are way out of whack, at least in my opinion. Money, or the amount of money they appear to have is way more important to them than other people. This book is so relevant now. I wonder if it's even more relevant today than it was when it was written?



I also wondered about the author, Peter Benchley and where he was coming from. I expected him to be a lot like the police chief character he'd written, an average enough guy who is around a lot of snobs, and therefore sensitive to snobbery. I was surprised to read that the author grew up spending his summers on Nantucket Island and went to Harvard. I was confused, because he had the kind of background the unsavory characters in his book had. But then I gave it some thought and decided that made sense in a way. Chances are pretty good he met some people who were into money and status along the way. So he had chances to observe a certain type of person, the type of person he clearly didn't admire!


I can't help noticing that I made the same kind of prejudgements on the author as some of the characters in his book made. It's probably natural to take a little bit of information about a person and assume a whole lot more. JAWS was messing with me, because I was constantly making judgements about characters based on a little information and then changing my mind. For instance, a character I thought I'd like because of his views on animals, the environment, and education turned out to be a self-centered sleazebag. And a character who had completely opposite views from mine on every issue in the book, turned out to have some common sense know-how and problem solving skills I admired. So reading this was stretching my brain. It was just another reminder not to prejudge people too quickly, or assume someone is a great person because you agree on many issues, or assume there are no admirable qualities in someone you don't agree with.



So in the middle of all this social commentary hitting you over the head like a brick, and a few dysfunctional relationships, a shark sometimes swims through the story and eats people. The book is way more about how these people relate than it is about a shark. The shark seems to be in the book as a catalyst for these people to interact for better or worse (mostly worse). Sometimes the characters are awfully shark-like themselves. There are a few predators! As I mentioned before, Steven Spielberg didn't like the people in this book, but he did think the shark was cool. So he decided to take the third and final part of this book and center his movie around that. The shark became the star.


After reading JAWS, I picked up the movie version of it from the library. The DVD I watched must have been watched a lot, because it kept cutting out. Those interruptions cut down on the suspense, but I still saw enough that I could piece the story together. The DVD case had a shiny coating, which gave it this watery effect. It was a special 30th anniversary edition. Much like my book, this DVD cover looks like it was attacked by a shark!


So, JAWS the movie was fun. I found it less scary than the book, maybe because it kept cutting out or maybe because the book was more scary. The book certainly was more descriptive! Sometimes a little too descriptive. Woo! They would have needed some new kind of rating for this movie if they showed everything in that book. Gore-city!


Anyway, the movie has some humor added in the way Spielberg does it. The only humorous parts in the book were parts I'm not even sure were supposed to be humorous. Maybe they just were to me. But you can tell the movie is supposed to be funny in parts. It's pretty light and fun for a killer shark movie. I liked all the characters in the movie, except for that smarmy mayor. There are so many more layers to him in the book and you find some sympathy for him there. But in the movie, he's pretty much one dimensional smarm.

Would you trust a man wearing that anchor jacket?

The police chief, the scientist, and the sea dog (Quint) are a group of guys you could comfortably crack open a beer with on a boat. It is so not that way in the book! Oh man, Quint in the book! I think the shark is more tame. Seriously, that man had some issues in the book. But in the movie, he's more fun-crazy, sings old piratey type songs, and tells tales on the boat. Quint's character in the movie gets as close to any of that regular guy vs. rich guy banter, but that doesn't really amount to much of anything. Oh, and if you think the book ends like the movie, nope!


So, if you want to get scared, read the book. If you want to have some fun and get a few scares, watch the movie. And if you want to get a whole lot of laughs, watch Jaws the Musical! I found some clips of that on YouTube. What a riot! Here's a little sampling from one theater group's show.

Chrissie's Last Swim:


Link: Chrissie's Last Swim video

Hehe. I think it's pretty clever how they made the "water". I wondered how that could be shown on a stage.



I wish that shark was in the musical, but I think this might be one of Katy Perry's backup dancers. I just checked, and oh yeah. I remember that half-time show. 😊

So, I'm guessing most of you have watched the movie version of JAWS, but has anyone read the book? Or been on the Universal ride where you get up close and personal with the shark? Boy, is that a memory that will be part of me forever! If you'd like to get a quick glimpse of what I saw as a six-year-old when the shark came right up next to us, you can watch part of this 80s promotional video for Universal Studios in Hollywood. Skip to the 6:47 mark:



I remember looking right down into his mouth. No wonder it took me this long to crack open the book or watch the movie! The shark and ride in general seems to have changed quite a bit from the videos I've watched online. I know it's gone altogether in Florida. Well, I look forward to discussing Jaws with you guys!

P.S. ~ Of all the days to read this Shark-related news item! Get a load of this:

Deputize the Shark!

That's right, a man escaped police by jumping into the ocean and then was followed by a shark. I think he was probably ready to be saved/arrested at that point!