A few months ago, before Robin Williams died, I was looking for “Dead Poet’s Society” on Netflix and Amazon Prime, in order to show my kids. At that point, neither of them were making it available for streaming, but it showed up under the book listing. It had never occurred to me that it was a book before it was a movie, though most really good movies are. Plenty of bad ones are, too. I downloaded it to my Kindle and added it to my 2015 reading list.
If you remember the movie, you know that “Dead Poet’s Society” is a book about rich kids in a boarding school who are on the fasttrack to the executive life, fulfilling not their own dreams, but their parents’. Enter Mr. John Keating, an alumnus of the school who encourages them to live and figure out who they are through poetry. His yearbook entry mentions that he was in “The Dead Poets Society.” He tells them a little about it, leaves one of the boys the book that they used for meetings, and things go forward from there, as each of the boys figures out a way to express his own will in one way or another, before the system comes in to crush them.
The movie is pretty true to the book, but, most unusually, the movie is far more brilliant at telling the story. In the book, the story is simplistic, the dialogue is artificial, and the antagonists have only a little less depth than the protagonists. It’s clear in the book that so much more can be done, and the movie actually succeeded where the book just skimmed the surface.
It was a fast, easy read. I’d give it 2.5 stars.