Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

The Flying Books

I love this video. I love it. It's already won several awards, and in my opinion, it should win many, many more. It's a simple, wordless video, made in the same whimsical style of a Pixar short. It's about books, which is an automatic win, but it managed to not only make me feel, but also think. Normally, when I watch a video, I analyze the style and the special effects, I laugh over the jokes, I nod over the warm fuzzies, and then I move on. But with this video, my mind began to hunt down rabbit trails within the first two minutes as if I were dissecting a novel for one of my college literature classes. [I suggest you stop now, watch the video, and form opinions for yourself before reading forward... Finished? Good. Continue.]

First, I love the quirky Wizard of Oz nods (the bike, the house, the vortex, the lack of color). I also loved that Mr. Lessmore seemed more concerned about his novel/diary than the fact that he was swirling around in a raging vortex of death. Books in general are important, but an unfinished work crafted by your own hands? Especially in an age before computers, iClouds, and external hard drives, losing a work means never getting it back. Any attempt at duplication will always come back as a mutation.

Second, the twin despairs presented by the erased novel and the ravaged world were so incredibly poignant. In a macro sense, the destruction left by the storm is the more important, and it's one that I understand. Hurricane Katrina (which was listed as a point of inspiration) and the tornados in Joplin captured the nation's attention for a reason, and while I've had my home destroyed to that extent, I have felt that numb, stomach-dropping feeling that accompanies driving around a once-familiar neighborhood - a once-familiar city - to find so many landmarks changed or completely destroyed.

The erasure of the book is just as awful on a micro level. His words, his work, are gone. Gone. Pfft. Wiped away, just like his home. There is no USB, no backup. This is why book burnings were such horrific events in history. Books are records, be they fiction or nonfiction. The written word has power and agency, and to destroy the words is to weaken the memory, to force a mutation. In certain pockets of the reading population, there is still a resistance to digital books and e-readers. I happen to be a staunch supporter of that resistance. I don't care who reads what how, but I will never give up my crisp pages and nice binding, nosirree. In the end, however, the medium, the casing, isn't what matters. Mr. Lessmore still has the physical book - the pages, the binding, the thread. But he's lost the words, and that's what robs him of his color.

This is all within the first four minutes, mind. The rest of the video touches on so many other wonderful things - how a good book can bring back the color to a crummy day, how books can take you on flights of fancy, how they make the world better, how sharing them can in turn bring happiness and vibrancy to others, and how, in the end, your words are your last great legacy.

I can't begin to number the times how an escape into a good book has let me return to the world with a readjusted focus (and less volatile emotions), nor can I put a price on the feeling of accomplishment I've felt when "resuscitating" an old book. The best day I've ever had at work was when I convinced a customer to buy a certain book for her nephew's birthday. He had read everything in a certain popular series and was craving something similar yet brand new. I knew just the thing and plucked out the first book of what I believe to be the best series of all time (of all time! all time! I say in my best Kanye impression). It shared certain elements with the other series, had a particularly crafty protagonist, and was clever enough to keep a precocious reader on his toes. I was all aglow because I had been able to send a fledgling book out into the world to please someone else. My world was in technicolor.

"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" captures these feelings and so many others perfectly, and, like the books it gleefully promotes, I am pleased to share it with you.

So what about you all out there? What did you like about this video? What feelings/thoughts did it spark in you? Was there anything you would have changed?