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Book 8: The Godfather

November 23, 2009

The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, details a Sicilian mob family and their ups and downs in New York from 1945-1955.  In addition are flashbacks to older days in Italy and the family’s rise to power at the end of WW1.

I don’t think I need to describe what makes this book great, but I will do so briefly.  My main objective is to convince your sorry movie over book neglecting because its too hard to focus for a long time asses to actually read a book when you have already seen the movie.  Spoilers might be given but nothing any of you possibly interested in reading the book already know.  The movie is amazing and one of the most influential of all time, but I want you to read this book and add to your enjoyment.

For those of you who have neither read the book nor seen the movie, I will not be as harsh as I should.

You should be dead to me at least until you redeem yourself.

Ok, first, a bit of a case for the book.  It is badass.  Neither Clint Eastwood nor John Wayne badass, but a whole new badass for its time.  Written in 1969, the mafia well known as an entity but not so much in detail was glorified but not nearly as much as the gunslinger.  The movie Scarface (1932) was I’m sure a big success, as was all the trouble Humphrey Bogart got himself into, but this life had never been seen in the light that Puzo put it in.

What’s great is that it is easy to see how anybody could want to be the characters in this book, but the even greater aspect is how even the reader’s perspective is of these characters by the end of the novel in that you could actually make a reasoned case for and against the actions of each character, thereby weighing upon how cool or demented the character is made to be. And you want to make these decisions.  You always want more.  This book is never boring, couldn’t even get close.

OK, now that I have told you why I like the book briefly (because it should be obvious to most people), I will now say a few words to why someone who hasn’t read the book but loves and has seen the movie should go back and read it even though it is against the common judgement of most people.

Hypothetical:  Why would you go back and read a book after seeing a movie first?

Movie sucked

Book is totally different

Only 1 movie was made and there are many books that take the story further.

I’m sure there are others as well, but not that many.  I can’t think of a book I have read for any other reason after seeing the movie other than those 3 reasons.  1 example that fits was The Day of the Jackal.  The movie is older and has issues, though isn’t that bad overall.  The main problem is plot differences and the book’s attention to detail that couldn’t possibly come close in the movie.

But here is one major reason.  Puzo worked on the movies and made many of the plot changes from the book to the movie himself, therefore to get the full experience of the story you have to read the book.  That should be enough.

Differences making the book worth it:

Johnny Fontane, the character based on Frank Sinatra, has a much larger back story and helps to flesh out why he is so important at the beginning of the movie.

Much of the second movie with De Niro is in the book thereby allowing you to flesh out and grasp much of the 2 movies.

A lot of the intentions of the characters and reasons for things in the movies are not totally apparent.  For instance, Sonny’s death, Hagan’s release from duties, etc.

A couple big things from the movie are not in the book, and different reasons are given for this.  These big things, without giving away too much, involve Kay Adams’ relationship with Michael and how Fredo handles Vegas.  This is only a small part of things in the novel that are not included in the movie.  Many great characters are left out.

Anyway, there is a lot to say about the savagery of this book, but I don’t feel like writing an essay.  To be short, the novel’s take on immigration, the law, war, and general society can be scathing at times.  This is because all books and movies about the mob or much of organized crime in general was told from an outsider’s outraged perspective before this; the scourge of society.  This is one of the first to do it from the inside out and the opinions expressed are strong, well formed, and come from the hearts of characters who truly live in the reader’s mind.

Fantastic book.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. The unpretentious cousin permalink
    November 23, 2009 2:55 pm

    Ok, I haven’t read the book, but how can you argue that the movie sucked? It is broadly regarded as one of the best movies ever created. It won three Academy Awards. Further, movies should not and can not be judged by the books from which they were adapted. They are completely different media. It’s like saying a painting of Jesus sucks because it lacks the depth and moral roadmap of the bible (whether or not the Bible actually provides a moral roadmap is not the issue). The Godfather movie established an entire genre of filmmaking that spawned other critically acclaimed (and DeNiro-centric) films like Goodfellas, Casino, A Bronx Tail, and others. It is a modern epic. A generation’s Ben-Hur. The logical reasoning that a) The masses are stupid, b) the masses liked The Godfather, therefore c) The Godfather is stupid, is a false tautology. But if we must use faulty inductive reasoning, let’s try this one: a) Your mother works in Hollywood (hear that hipsters?!?!) b) You reject mainstream entertainment, so c) You reject your mother. What a great son you are!

  2. November 23, 2009 3:43 pm

    woah woah woah. I never said that the movie sucked. You might have been confused when I was talking in general terms why a person would read a book after seeing a movie. I changed this in the post by putting the word hypothetical before I ask the question. But I thought that would have been obvious. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. Everything I say about the point of view of the book’s characters and the social aspects it touches on apply just as much to the movies, maybe even more with how they changed the genre, where the book didn’t have that effect on future writers (as far as I know). I dont think I gave off the impression that I didn’t like the movie. In fact I was trying to convince people to read the book BECAUSE the movie is so good and there is more to be learned about the characters and their motivation.
    I’m at a loss to see how I put down the movie.
    The only change I have just made is adding the word “Hypothetical” but I don’t see how that changes that much of what I stated.

  3. November 23, 2009 3:48 pm

    I will now go back and make myself more clear I guess.

    OK, Changes made. But I must add that I am not going to review the movie. Nor do I want to. If you haven’t seen it, you don’t like movies all that much and wouldn’t read the review anyway.

  4. The unpretentious cousin permalink
    November 23, 2009 3:57 pm

    If only your sister would respond to comments with such zeal.

  5. November 23, 2009 4:14 pm

    I dont understand where I got a hipster mentality to you. I am not going to argue for my mainstream merit badge but I would bet my pop culture knowledge against most people I know. Maybe books are too retro these days. I do own a few flannel shirts and wear them in pictures if that tipped you off. If I thought things were stupid for the sole reason of being popular I would kick my own ass. I definitely condone being counter culture to make things more interesting, but that doesn’t exist without good old fashioned regular culture, which I take black, like my women.
    I will now sign off to go watch 2012 for the sole purpose of witnessing global destruction and putting all dialog out of my mind, then come back and get into the Twilight movie series.

  6. The unpretentious cousin permalink
    November 23, 2009 4:33 pm

    Please also listen to Party in the USA until you become wistful for pre-baby Britany.

    • November 23, 2009 11:32 pm

      her father was the biggest train wreck to ears in history, an ugly creation put on earth to prove or disprove god depending on how vengeful yours is. The life of Miley is no surprise

  7. the mother permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:31 pm

    you two make me so happy!

  8. November 27, 2009 12:55 am

    Jason you can suck it. How’s that for zeal?

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