Wiesel's 'Night,' 'Hamlet' in 60 seconds?
I just received a pitch for a website that says it is trying to turn young people on to great literature by boiling down the plot of classics to a 60-second video. It's called 60second Recap™.
I could just write, “Enough said,” and leave it at that.
But now I’m wondering why they can’t do it in less than a minute. I can.
Let’s consider the latest video on the site, Elie Wiesel’s classic about the Holocaust “Night.”It is the story of his experience of being dragged off, with his family, to Hitler’s concentration camps.
The press release about the Web site reads:
Host Jenny Sawyer didn’t take the challenge lightly: "The Holocaust throws a shadow over the 20th century, but it’s begun to recede into history," she says. "The task is to help today’s teens connect with contemporary accounts of the Holocaust so that its lessons remain fresh. I can’t think of a better place to start than ’Night.’ "
There is a 60-second video of Sawyer explaining the plot. There is another 60-second video of her talking about the characters (“I have some good news and some bad news,” she says. “The good news is that there aren’t a lot of charcters for you to remember in this story. The bad news is the same. There aren’t a lot of characters to remember.”)
There are other related 60-second videos, each showing Sawyer talking about a part of "Night," most of them with simple drawings as backdrops.
I can boil down Wiesel’s story and make it relevant to young people who are learning about human frailty and mortality in five, no, two seconds: “Everybody dies.”
For Shakespeare’s tragedies? “Everybody dies, first in spirit, then in body.”
With promos like these, who wouldn’t want to pick up those books?
Here’s what the Web site says as a pre-emptive strike against nasty people like me:
“Smirk if you must. Consider this yet another mile-marker on civilization’s road to perdition. But here’s the fact: You won’t get non-readers to read by forcing them to read more. You’ll get them to read by opening their eyes to the marvels awaiting them between the covers of that homework assignment.
“With 60second Recap™, teens finally have an alternative to the boring, text-based study guides that have burdened them for generations. And -- who knows? -- maybe that’s just what they’ll need to begin a love affair with literature, one that will last a lifetime.”
Smirk I must.
Consider this another mile-maker on civilization’s road to perdition, I must.
I must also point out that the fact that is cited as a fact isn’t a fact. Non-readers CAN learn to enjoy reading if they read more. In fact, there’s pretty much no other way to get non-readers to enjoy reading except to have them read things they enjoy.
As for those boring, text-based study guides, well, I know boring, text-based study guides, and you, Mr. 60-second videos, are no boring-text-based study guides. Boring, text-based study guides actually impart information and analysis.
The idea that young people need a short video to entice them to read a great work of art is ugly. The ability to enjoy and stick with a great narrative has not been bred out of the younger generation, even if it is accustomed to instant gratification in the post-Sesame Street era.
Getting anyone to pick up a book because of a 60-second video, now that’s a real trick
If you must see these videos, click here. Let me know --in comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org many drive you to read the book. Feel free to tell me I'm wrong.
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| March 5, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories: Literature | Tags: literature, videos
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