The Help Desk: No, but I watched the movie

Every Friday, Cienna Madrid offers solutions to life’s most vexing literary problems. Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna can help. Send your questions to

Dear Cienna,

Has there ever been a movie adaptation that's better than the book it's supposed to be based on?

Douglas, West Seattle

Dear Douglas,

That's like comparing apples to Amtrak. While they've got plenty of flash and money, movies can never hope to encapsulate the depth and imagination of books, let alone best them. The two mediums are as vastly different as a fortune cookie is from my favorite psychic-slash-preschool-teacher, Raven Moonwhisper. Sure, the cookie is momentarily satiating and its simple platitudes vaguely pleasing, but is a cookie ever going to charge me $50/hr to tell me which of my spirit guides is too drunk to trust and whether I should quit my job to pursue a career in animal husbandry? (Through trial and error I have discovered farm animals find my presence unnaturally arousing.)

At best, a good movie can enhance a great book experience in much the same way that playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon enhances silent screenings of The Wizard of Oz and Schindler’s List.

But to answer your question: Ben Hur is definitely more entertaining than the Bible.