A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson – Apples to Oranges
I’m so excited that 2016 is done. I have a huge list of resolutions to accomplish in 2017 and my #1 goal is to be more physically active and take advantage of the amazing hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest. Since my New Year’s resolutions don’t usually last past February, I wanted to find motivation to start walking despite the creaking in my knees. With perfect timing, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail came across my path (pun intended).
Bill felt like he wanted to accomplish something significant in his life and took on a call to adventure by attempting to walk the daunting Appalachian Trail with his sidekick and folly friend, Katz. What I thought would be an interesting read turned into a powerful statement about our environment and the resiliency of the human spirit.
The book was published in 1998 but it took until 2015 for the film to be released to the movie theaters. Which version did I enjoy best? Drum roll please… the book!
Both versions told the core message that people can accomplish goals at any age. This is what I wanted to hear but the book was about people feeling spiritually lost and finding themselves on a nature hike while the movie turned into a silly bro-mance with spectacular views.
One of the most powerful sections of the book was when Katz talked about losing a battle with his sobriety after enduring endless lonely nights microwaving tasteless TV dinners. Because after everything he had accomplished and endured on the trail, when they took a break from the hike and returned to normal society, he sank back to past poor habits and began drinking again. Your heart broke for him. When they returned to the hike, not only did they have to start from square one to get their bodies and minds attuned to long hiking days, Katz also had to detox from alcohol again. I longed to join them on the trail, just to give Katz a big hug and a huge box of Little Debbies. In the movie, the messy relapse was replaced with a speech at the top of a mountain and the emptying of a flask.
There were many problems with changing the core of the story from being Lost and Found in the Woods to a comedy between two popular extreme characters. First, it changed the interactions between all the other characters. The helpful experienced hikers became reminders of their lost youth and interactions with the opposite sex turned into lost romantic opportunities.
I can’t even imagine how Bill Bryson’s wife found out that they were going to tweak her husband’s story with a possible infidelity storyline. I’m sure it went something along the lines that they had good news and bad news for her. The good news was that the amazing Emma Thompson had agreed to play her in the movie and all the flattery that comes with such a great casting choice. Then they dropped the bad news that they were adding more drama to the movie with a flirtation between her husband and a hotel manager played by the beautiful Mary Steenburgen. That would be a hard pill to swallow.
The movie is a light comedy with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte who gave their best efforts to make you laugh while audiences were able to see actual parts of the Appalachian Trail. This was most appreciated as my New Year’s resolution is to walk trails the length of a few miles, not a few states. But if you have the opportunity, please enjoy the audio book version and listen to Bill himself tell you about his adventures with Katz and why nature needs our help.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and in celebration of love, next month I wanted to focus on a love story that started as a novel and became a movie. There were many options but I have decided to go with a paranormal twist and have selected Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies. Trust me, there are more to zombies than what you see on the Walking Dead.
Columnist: Jessie lives in Oregon and writes to avoid the rain. She only feels compelled to kill her characters when she starts a new diet and if she hates the ending of a TV episode she’ll rewrite it to give everyone a happily ever after. Currently Jessie is an unpublished author but she works tirelessly to removed two letters – un – from that word.
Column book and movie tape drawn by Evangeline Owen