Monday, July 26, 2010

Let The Book Thief Steal A Few Hours This Summer

The Book ThiefEver since 20th Century Fox acquired the film rights to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in 2006, fans have been patiently waiting for any news. It remains stuck in development, with a 2010 release date that is increasingly unlikely to be met.

Next year seems plausible, but without any casting announcements, any news about a movie is speculative at best. What isn't speculative is that the Australian author is busy working on a long-awaited third book. "It's about a boy. His name is Clay. He's building a bridge."

In the meantime, The Book Thief continues to embed itself into our collective subconscious. For evidence, look no further than the news stories about William Jacques, a real book thief. Almost every paper has bent the headlines to capitalize on both The Book Thief and Tomb Reader (changing it to Tome Raider).

What Is It About The Book Thief That Enchants?

Zusak tells the story about Nazi Germany similar to those I was told by my grandmother. And in hearing those stories, one cannot help but to appreciate that the story seldom told is the division between the people and the state.

For me, those stories brushed up images of citizens being forced to clean up the streets after Allied bombings. For Zusak, it was the story of an old man who handed a piece of bread to a procession of Jews being paraded through town. For both of us, it was the pressure from the party to steal away the the most athletic or brightest children and rob them of their youth.

In The Book Thief, one character narrowly escapes being so conscripted. For my grandmother's family, they weren't.

Originally, The Book Thief captured the attention of critics because Zusak had uncloaked an unapologetic narrator in Death. But once engrossed in the story of Liesel Meminger, a 9-yeard-old girl ushered off to live with a foster family in Molching, Germany, something else happens. We begin to follow a heroine as she collects outcast books and people in her quest to learn to read after discovering how she might lose herself in words that might otherwise be burned.

Reading banned books is not the only secret her foster family keeps in the basement. Bound by his word to a friend who saved his life in World War I, Liesel's foster family keeps a Jewish refugee there as long as they can. Everything ends. Sooner or later.

I don't consider that detail a spoiler, as there is something else unconventional in Zusak's writing. Our narrator is often unwilling to foreshadow. Death frequently tells us someone's fate ahead of time, only leaving out the circumstances.

Here is a small fact. You are going to die.

Here is another small fact. In 2008, a fan successfully cobbled together scenes from The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Pan's Labyrinth, The Pianist, and perhaps others to create the illusion of what a trailer might look like. It's surprisingly good.

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak Earns A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Book Thief is a rare and precious gem of a book that sweeps up readers shortly after the first more confusing pages. It's not perfect, but there are so many brilliant moments that Zusak will one day be cited as some yet-to-be-born writer's inspiration.

The Book Thief is available on Amazon in print and on Kindle. With iTunes, Allan Corduner offers up an excellent audio adaption to The Book Thief or you can find it as an iPhone app.

The print version, right now, is the best value. As for the film, all I can suggest is a few simple things. Cover your mouth with your hand. Make a wish. Close your hand around it. And hold it to your heart for five seconds. My son is reading it this summer.
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