Q&A by Vikas Swarup and Slumdog Millionaire

I remember when Q&A came out. It was one of the books I leased for our library. (Libraries can purchase a plan to lease books. It’s often used to get extra copies of bestsellers, and we also tried to get copies of books such as Q&A: interesting books that we might not want in the permanent collection.) From what I remember, I sent it back because it never circulated. The reviews were mixed, and I never bothered to check it out myself. I didn’t even know what it was about.

Slumdog Millionaire, however, is a movie we have been looking forward to ever since Entertainment Weekly started hyping it. Millions is one of my favorite movies, and I know that Danny Boyle is all over the map, but there is something about the way that he presents people in his movies that really moves me. So Mike and I decided to drive to Chapel Hill to make a Trader Joe’s run and catch Slumdog Millionaire just before New Year’s. (Oh, my gosh, that sentence is disgusting. I don’t even want to be my own friend, it’s so pretentious. I apologize.) And I loved it. I know everyone is saying that. But I did. It gave me that full-hearted happy feeling. You know the one I mean. After we saw it, I put a hold on the book at the library, and I finished it on Thursday afternoon.

I appreciate Slumdog Millionaire even more after reading the source material. That is a sneaky way of telling you that I liked the movie better than the book. It happens, okay? It happens every once in a while, that I actually like a movie more than a book. I am sorry to shatter your illusions of me. It usually has something to do with the tone of the book – I want to believe that people can change, that there is hope for our world, that there are people who choose to do the right things. I am not a hopeless romantic, but I want to believe in the power of love to change lives. Even if everything isn’t fixed in 300 or so pages, I want the characters to have progressed, to have seen the good in humanity. I read books that are bleak, but there is a certain cynical tone that I try to avoid. This is why I like movies from Nick Hornby’s books better than Nick Hornby’s books themselves. I know this is blasphemy to some of you, but I am who I am.

The contrast between Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire illustrates this perfectly. The setup is the same: a poor, uneducated young man in India advances on a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?-type show because the questions perfectly parallel his life experiences. But while Q&A is full of darkness, Slumdog Millionaire shows similar (though not exactly the same) difficult situations through a lens of hope and love and luck (or maybe fate). Which is why it was my favorite movie for 2008. For the same reason, Q&A will join the (much too long) list of books I have read and then forgotten about.

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