Thursday, August 9, 2012

Stef's "So Good You Can't Put It Down" Book Reviews: Are Plays Considered "Books?" (and Briefly Discussing Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

My Summer 2012 Reading Challenge is still underway. Recently (a few weeks ago) I finished reading Edward Albee's full length three act play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It is a very interesting read that kept me engaged. It's one of those books where the reader is so into the what is going on in the story that he or she is not often interrupted by outside distractions. Like when I complete most books, I felt accomplished when I finally finished this one in only a few days. It's pretty long and very heavy. It was written by Edward Albee after all. Edward Albee is the most well known American playwright of our time and he is still living. Albee has a tendency to write plays where he takes a normal situation and eventually makes it creepy. For example, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, an older married couple that is constantly at each others' throats, George and Martha, invites a younger married couple, Nick and Honey, over for drinks one late evening, early morning after a party at a college at which they work. Of course, this set up sounds normal, but then there are plenty of psychological revelations throughout the play through the interactions of the characters that could send shivers down your spine.

Albee does well with suggesting certain things towards the beginning and then explaining them later on, making these explanations climatic. He keeps you interested in wanting to know what the secret is and who is going to find out. That's all I'm really going to say about this one, for this is a play I've been wanting to read and I enjoyed the journey of reading it and discovering these revelations on my own without any truly important prior information, so I want you to do the same if you are interested in reading it. This book, along with Equus, is the only book I finished reading this summer for my challenge. The last time I went to library, figuring that reading plays is a lot more successful for me, I took out the play Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling and am in the process of reading that.

This got me thinking about something I have been wondering for awhile now. Does reading plays in book form count just like reading actual fiction novels do? I say this because reading plays was always a lot easier and enjoyable for me, mainly because I am a theater person. Also, they are structured differently and mainly consist of dialogue whereas fiction consists more of narration and descriptions. I always felt that the story occurs quicker in plays whereas fiction drags out sometimes.

However, I feel like I am cheating in a way when I count a play as a book I have read because the story is simpler to picture in my mind on a stage as opposed to the setting of a novel and also because when one thinks about "reading a book" it's normally fiction and plays are normally supposed to be seen and not read. Is it still an accomplishment to read plays even though? Rather, is it still an accomplishment equal to that of actually getting through a novel, or is it less of an accomplishment? Or, is it an equal accomplishment, but just in a different way? I could ask about reading material being easy. Is it considered a better accomplishment if the material is more difficult to complete, or is it just the fact that you completed any book that counts? I personally find reading plays easier and more enjoyable, but then there are others who could have a more difficult time reading plays just because they don't understand how to read them. Regardless, I still finished reading the book, so it should not matter whether or not it was easy for me. But I could also bring up the question of reading children's books, which is the simplest of all. Does reading a whole children's book count as a reading accomplishment equal to reading a whole novel? It just seems as though fiction is the constant and the other forms of literature branch off from that.

Then again, this is like saying that plays aren't true writings whereas fiction writing is, downgrading them as if plays are second to novels when it comes to literature. Drama, fiction, poetry, and even screenplays are all equal forms of literature, but they are also different. I could also ask if reading a full book of poetry counts as a reading accomplishment. Poetry can also be considered "simpler" considering that poems are shorter. But, the meanings of poems could be much deeper, considering how poetry is often symbolic and metaphoric, and in turn make the reading that much more difficult to get through and understand and that much more rewarding when you actually do so. However, drama, fiction, and screenplays can also definitely have their own symbolic messages that their readers must discover as well. If meanings don't exist, then there probably is no point to the piece anyway.

Does only what you take from the material matter? Should the length of the material be taken into account when it comes to finally completing a book to determine how much of an accomplishment it is or is it just the message and what you ultimately get from the material that counts?

Or, is reading a book from beginning to end (without skipping ahead of course) the only thing that should determine a successful reading accomplishment?

Have you ever thought about this? If so, what are your thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. there's an excellent film adaptation of "Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf?" the four main characters are portrayed superbly. it's just as startiling when it was made in the 60's. it's become one my favorite movies.