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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A movie ... and a book

Daniel Wagner

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To purchase A movie ... and a book

Title: A movie ... and a book
Author: Daniel Wagner
Genre: Novel
Written: 2004
Length: 111 pages
Availability: A movie ... and a book - US
A movie ... and a book - UK
A movie ... and a book - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B- : a creative idea, but the writing isn't sharp enough to sustain it

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
San Francisco Chronicle D 18/7/2004 Timothy Peters
Slate F 26/7/2004 Aleksandar Hemon

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wagner's idea -- about the separation between art and life -- is not terribly original, not well developed, and not particularly interesting. Ideas, of course, permeate good fiction, but it's the other elements that animate novels, stories and movies -- plot, characters and conflict -- elements that are conspicuously lacking from this literally and figuratively thin book." - Timothy Peters, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Daniel Wagner's A Movie ... and a Book is the worst book I have ever voluntarily read. Wagner is a 29-year-old snowboarder from Switzerland and has never written a book before. It seems that he has never read one either. Beginning with the absurd title, every page reveals such rich ineptitude in thinking and writing that its 100 or so pages feel endless. (...) A Movie ... and a Book is an awful movie treatment undercover as a godawful novel." - Timothy Peters, San Francisco Chronicle

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A movie ... and a book is a hybrid-fiction. It begins with the description of a movie, switches to a few pages from a shooting script, then offers a two-track narrative in slightly more conventional fictional form that makes up the bulk of the very thin book.
       One storyline is that of Jim Frazier, who wants to be a writer but appears to be having difficulties in selling his work. The other storyline tells of Liz and Lou, stranded alone on an island, uncertain how they got there. The two storylines aren't quite as separate as they first appear, and they do eventually converge.
       The stories are told in short sections (fifty-four of them over less than a hundred pages), dialogue-heavy scenes from domestic (and island) life -- scenes from a movie, one can imagine. Indeed, the book reads equally as a fiction or screenplay.
       The title-concept applies not only to the work itself, however: it's also the guiding philosophy, a family saying that keeps cropping up. As Jim explains to his son at one point:

"Life is a game: it's a movie and it's a book. It's not always easy, but there is always a way. You just have to look at it the right way."
       There are variations on this idea throughout the book, but they can't hide one fact: this isn't a very convincing philosophy. Nothing Wagner does can make it one, either.
       The scenes are brief and cinematic: there's conversation and some action, but no background or interpretation. What you see (and hear) is what you get: film on the page. Unfortunately, it is often not very compelling action, and unconvincing (and sometimes stilted) dialogue. Worse, a great deal of it serves no purpose: one imagines it will all add up to something, that meaning we missed along the way might emerge as the story comes together. It doesn't.
       The story does get a bit more interesting with the appearance of Jim's brother, Andy, when the reader learns that there is a bigger concept behind all this. But Wagner is very ambitious, and this story, told and presented this way, simply can't sustain it.
       Wagner comes with grand and very specific expectations -- and a good deal of wishful thinking. The book begins with a description of a film-projection; "We see a big empty room" are the opening words, and he continues:
So after the short time it takes your brain to realize, It's an empty room, you start to wonder, What for ? Is it possible that the whole thing blows up all of a sudden ? Or is it a lousy movie and they simply couldn't afford more ? And while thinking about it, while thinking about these kinds of things, the movie makers have you already glued to your seat. I guess they teach this stuff in art school nowadays.
       Wagner is certain of the viewer's reaction -- and, of course, completely mistaken. (Possibly some viewers might react as described; certainly other things came and would come to our minds, never mind the being glued to our seats .....) Unfortunately, he takes the same approach throughout the book: he doesn't allow the reader to allow him or herself to be guided by his/her imagination, but rather imposes a strict, narrow vision on the reader. And -- like the vision of the empty room -- it just ain't a very impressive one.
       There are playful, clever ideas in the book, but the execution isn't clever enough (and it isn't written sharply enough) to impress much. That said, it's not worse than many semi-artsy movies -- and might make a tolerable one, as the screen is much more forgiving than the page of, for example, such dialogue, and offers visual sensations that can't be found in the black and white on the page.

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A movie ... and a book: Reviews:

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About the Author:

       Swiss author Daniel Wagner was born in 1974.

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© 2004-2021 the complete review

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