Some friends and I had an interesting chat on facebook about Frank Herbert’s Dune. With their kind permission, I am posting it here. This is a great way to blog—just let others do it for you!
Firefly: “We have reached that time when all will seek our lives…” — Paul (Maud ‘Dib) Atriedes, Dune
Doodlebug: You sure that quote isn’t from Barry Zito?
Firefly: You’re sharp! I did intend that as a literary reference to the state of the Giants right now. (Other times it reflects the state of my own psyche…)
Ant: Yeah, so what exactly is Dune anyways? It’s a TV show, right?
Firefly: Oh Ant…Epic sci-fi tome by Frank Herbert. Made into a somewhat controversial movie by David Lynch in the ’80s. It took Lord of the Rings to move this from the number one spot on my all time favorite list. I highly recommend the read. I’m actually surprised you haven’t devoured this one yet.
Ant: I am admittedly out of touch with pop-culture, for I do not own a TV and you assume correctly that I say that with snobbish hipster pride. I also do not read much, sadly, and this I am not proud of. Most books just don’t hold my attention, and I am suspicious of the shelves upon shelves of look-alike fantasy fiction which are a challenge to discern through and choose the worthy vs the unworthy. But if you recommend it, I may give it a sniff.
Firefly: I applaud your aversion to pop-disposable-culture. Your wisdom however belies your aversion to the written word. I frequently have to be dragged by wild horses to a book, reading used to equate too much with school, but find something that intrigues me and I have the capacity to be voracious. The Dune saga actually stretches for 6 books, and Herbert’s son added various prequels – probably totaling a dozen by now. But I wouldn’t suggest all that to anybody. Dune itself is the classic. Herbert is quite the philosopher and that’s the primary thing that distinguishes this work from pulp sci-fi. The interior, thoughtful, non-dialog writing is particularly impressive to me. Anyway, check it out some day.
Ant: That part about reading=school+therefore+undesirable is my point exactly. So I’m on the hunt for soul-nourishing stories. I shall investigate this one, thanks! How thick are the Dune books? Not that it should matter if they’re wonderful. (In fact, thicker would be better if they’re great.)
Firefly: Dune itself is about 400-500 pages.
Doodlebug: Sorry Firefly, I couldn’t handle either Frank Herbert or Dune!! I was an Arthur C. Clarke, H.P. Lovecraft kind of guy : )
UglyBug: I’m going to throw out a comparison here that will make you gag, but the Dune series is, in one way, like the Twilight series. The first book is good enough (in the case of Dune, completely brilliant, of course) to make you read the rest of the series, but none of them satisfies in the same way. I will also point out that Dune was remade as a TV miniseries, and even though it’s not great, it is where I discovered James McAvoy (as Leto II, twin son of Paul). Finally, you have to persevere at the beginning of the book Dune, because Herbert needs time to describe his incredible universe before the action kicks in. Wow, now I think I need to read this again.
Firefly: You really hit the nail on the head. I was completely blown away by the initial work—it is a classic. But you’re right. The scope is so large that you have to give Herbert time to set the stage. And yes, I raced to read Dune Messiah, but quickly after Muad ‘Dib leaves the scene, the work loses some important power. I liked the miniseries, if only for the fact that they attempted it. What was it, a Hungarian production? Intriguing. I enjoyed the Paul/Muad ‘Dib characterization but they lost me with the Baron’s portrayal. Was he trying to play the part as a bad conscience? Anyway, I liked it for what it was, but you can’t get past the absence of Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Patrick Stewart, Jürgen Prochnow, and, for that matter, José Ferrer. I’m in the midst of “Middle Earth” right now, but perhaps when I’m finished I’ll have to dust off the old paperback for another go. In the meantime, I might just watch the David Lynch cut on dvd.
UglyBug: One of the funniest books I’ve ever read is The Making of Dune, about the Lynch movie. They spent a fortune on special effects to create the sandworms. The first time everyone sat in the screening room to view the footage on a large screen, all the men crossed their legs in horror. The worms looked like giant penises. Everything had to be re-shot, which is why you only see the worms from certain angles, with their mouths open, to avoid the problem. My favorite cheesy film line: “The worms, the spice; is there a relationship?” By the way, don’t forget Linda Hunt (fresh from her Oscar win for playing a man in A Year of Living Dangerously), Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Sting, and Virginia Madsen. Let’s have Dune party one of these days!
Firefly: Well, you also have to love the Twin Peaks crossover: Lynch, MacLachlan, Everett McGill (Big Ed!), Jack “There’s a fish in the coffee pot” Nance, José Ferrer (Miguel’s father)…Yes, I think a Dune party is certainly in order! The spice must flow!!!
(Thanks, everybody, for the lively discussion. I think I need to go watch James McAvoy shirtless now.)