Jaws by Peter Benchley [Book]

Jaws by Peter BenchleyJaws is the tale of a marriage on the edge of failure. Chief Brody, head of the Amity police, is married to Ellen. They’ve three kids. He’s a native of the area; one of the poor boys who spent his days on the beaches while the rich folks came down to vacation from the big cities. She’s from one of those big cities, from one of those rich families, and since she married Chief Brody she’s been an outsider amongst the natives and outsider amongst the tourists. She belongs nowhere and feels herself wasting away in the tiny beach town, and she pines for what once was.

Jaws is the tale of shady land speculation, organized crime and local governmental corruption, wherein another poor local boy “makes good,” becomes Mayor, becomes one of the “nouveau riche,” then winds up putting lives at risk to save his own skin and pay his bad debts.

Oh yeah … Jaws is also the tale of a killer shark that starts eating swimmers off the coast of Amity. Chief Brody, Matt Hooper and Quint (the infamous modern Ahab captured so wonderfully by Robert Shaw in Spielberg’s movie, although he only shows up in the book in the last eighty pages after one brief half page cameo early on) go out and try to save the people and Amity’s economy by catching the greatest of great white sharks. It all feels like an afterthought, a tacked on third act of a book that never knew what it wanted to be, and the total lack of closure as the novel ends is pretty disappointing.

Once again, the movie proves to be better than the book. Much, much better.

GOODREADS.COM  – written by author of Existence CostsBrad Simkulet

Brad Simkulet

Brad Simkulet

First things first, until now I had never heard of Brad Simkulet.  But I must say that I desperately want to now.  As I was scouring the internet for a brief plot summary of this book, I became seriously aggravated, as one could expect when you are trying to find the summary of the book that birthed the original “Summer Blockbuster” movie of the same title 40 years ago.  But Mr. Simkulet absolutely hit the nail on the head, and just about said everything I wanted to say about the book in the comments section of Goodreads.com.  And in even greater honesty, I don’t think I could truly put anything in to words (although you know I will try) that works as great as Brad’s compelling comments were.  So if you were to stop reading right now, and just go check out Brad Simkulet’s account on Goodreads, or look in to his own novel Existence Costs, I would not be upset.  It is exactly what I would do after reading this paragraph of assertion of dumbassery.

The primary reason I feel as though I am not the right person to be doing this review is based around and ideal I would have never thought about before.  You see, I have never watched the film Jaws.  (pause for gasps) Yes, I’ve never laid eyes on the original blockbuster.  It’s not as though I am some sort of anti-commericialism hipster who absolutely will NOT enjoy a massive hit film that cost as much to make as a third world country earns in cocaine or human trafficking profits.  I do like them.  Well, not most of them.  I’m actually straining to really think of one, but I know I am not against them.  Well, Django Unchained cost $100 million to make, does that count?  No matter, I am straying off topic.  This is the first time that not seeing a movie has impacted my reading of a book before.  Going in to this book was estranged to me because I knew the basic plot, as I have at least a partially function brain and have heard of the infamous man eating shark.

What I was indeed most curious about was how much the characters in this book would matter.  Though I have not seen the film, I could only imagine that the only character any movie goer might give a shit about is the 3 ton shark that is eating sexy bikini legs off (as the movie poster might suggest).  But this was a novel.  The characters had to matter at least a bit more, right?  And as it turns out, they really did!  As much as Mr. Simkulet jests in the quoted text above, this book was really about the people.  The descriptions he makes are absolutely true, and I would not be surprised if they make no sense to anyone reading this review, who has only watched the film.  I know the names of Brodie and Quint are the same as in the film.  I only know this because the infamous filmmaker Kevin Smith named his two main characters in Mallrats after these two.  I’m dead serious about that.  Anyway, I really don’t see it as too of a cry away to imagine that so many of the story lines in this novel where probably highly omitted or erased altogether in attempt to keep the pace of the film moving in the right direction, and to keep the thriller elements alive and ready.  And this is one book-to-film adaptation I believe was done correctly, simply based on reading the actual novel, and hearing what film critics have written about the film.

Peter BenchleyI know I must watch the film adaptation of Jaws someday, and I am sure I will stumble upon it involuntarily.  But, I am glad I read this book, even if there hadn’t been a world famous film adaptation.  It really was a good story.  Although, if it hadn’t fasted around the idea of a giant shark coming around and eating everybody, it could make a very serious and thriving tale of a dying beach community, and the people who populate these summer destinations year in and year out.  The ones who serve you at the seafood joints.  The arcade vendors.  The fishermen guides, etc.  This concept was a blunder for me that I was really getting in to.  So much so that I could give a shit less when they sot out after the big fish, which I hear is a major part of the film.  But, I guess that is just the damn dirty hipster in me who just can’t seem to appreciate a good bit of junk food for the brain with a John Williams score.

I do recommend for people who truly enjoyed the film, to check out the book, and maybe get a new point of view of all the thing Benchley wanted to (but probably didn’t do well) say in this novel.  It’s not exactly Gone With the Wind, a beautiful book with an even more beautiful adaptation, but it could give you a nice new perspective when you pop in your favorite summer blockbuster film again.  Hell, at least you would be reading.  And that can’t be a bad thing, right?

Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society.  We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books.  This is review #10.  Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014.  Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind.  For a complete list of book reviews, click HERE.  Enjoy!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Jaws by Peter Benchley [Book]

  1. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your “assertion of dumbassery.”

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