Other than the weird homeschooled girl at my work who had never seen any pop culture phenomenon turned movie, who hasn’t seen “Jaws”? Seriously, the movie is iconic. The shark’s theme. The camera angles. The often misquoted line. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” The movie literally is woven into our collective lives.
But what about the book?
That’s right, train wrecks. Like many of our cultural icons, Jaws was a book before it was a movie. And what a book it is.
Spoiler and trigger warnings. If you haven’t read this, you might be in for a shock. And there is mention of rape. You’ve been warned. Here we go.
I belong to several book clubs. Most are monthly. One is seasonal. And why not pick aquatic horror theme for summer.
Now, I don’t know about you, but Shark Week is practically a holiday in my house. So, why wouldn’t I choose to read the classic man vs shark story of “Jaws.” By the way, if you’ve ever watched Shark Week, you’d know how influential Peter Benchley was in making sharks popular and infamous. Props to him for spending the rest of his life trying to fix the damage done by over zealous idiots.
On to the book. I loved it. Four out of five broomsticks. There was so much left out of the movie or changed. And honestly, I don’t know why! Why leave out a son? Why change their names and ages? Why leave out the relationship between Brody and the reporter? Why make Brody an outsider instead of lifer? Maybe this is why I read and write books instead of make movies. Because I just don’t understand why these details were altered or erased.
Trigger for spoilers and rape: What I do appreciate being left out is the whole Ellen and Hooper encounter in the restaurant. Gross! Ew! Like, no. Stop. Quit. Don’t. Why?! Ellen Brody pissed me off. Girl, you have had three kids. You are thirty five. Stop being bougie. You have a good husband. A good life. Like, why? Why would you risk it for you ex’s little brother? Who is ten years younger than you. Meaning he was nine when you were nineteen. Seriously? Stop it. But, no. She doesn’t. She goes on to describe, in detail, over lunch, her fantasy of being raped to Hooper.
I was so uncomfortable during that. That was so hard to get through. I had to stop and take a moment to continue. Thankfully, we were spared having to read the actual event between them. Although we do get a graphic remembering from Ellen about Hooper climaxing. And despite the description of Matt Hooper in the book, Richard Dreyfuss is the only image my brain can conjure of the character. Richard Dreyfuss and his furry chest that looks like he’s still wearing a sweater when he’s in the shower. There ya go. That image. In my head. Brain bleach. Stat.
Literally, could have lived my entire life without all that. And the book would not have been any different without it. A whole chapter could have been cut and nothing would have changed.
Once we got past that gratuitous nonsense, the book got better. I loved the whole part of government corruption versus the safety of the public. Brody really is David going up against Goliath. Not once but twice. Between trying to do the right thing and shut the beaches down and trying to find this fish and kill it, this man has all the odds stacked against him.
I love the movie. I loved the ride at Universal Studios. And I loved this book. I would absolutely recommend it. I stand by my stance that the book is always better.
Have you read it? Will you? Tell me what you think?
About the Author
Peter Benchley began his career as a novelist in 1974 with the publication of Jaws, which was made into a hugely successful film. His other books include The Deep, The Island, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, “Q” Clearance, Rummies, Beast, White Shark, and Shark Trouble. He was also a speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson and a journalist for such magazines as Newsweek and National Geographic. Benchley died in 2006. For more information, please visit http://www.peterbenchley.com.