Bookworm Interview: Jonathan Robertson

Want to get to know the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out more about Jonathan!


Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:

I’m a filmmaker in New York. I like The Rockford Files and I listen to a lot of Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon.

Q: What books did you love as a child?:

I learned to read from comic books. My grandfather owned a comic shop in New Jersey in the 80s, and when he closed it in the early 90s, he kept all of his leftover stock, which was about 5,000 books. He wanted to sell them off, but never got around to it, so throughout my childhood, there was always a basement full of comics to read, which he arranged into a mini-comic shop, just for me.


Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

I started reading Raymond Chandler when I was in high school, and that got me going on a crime fiction kick that’s never really slowed down. From Chandler, I went for Dashiell Hammett, which led to George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard, plus Erle Stanley Gardner, Jim Thompson, Lawrence Block… Great googly moogly, the list goes on and on.

Extra special shout out to Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker books. Those are some beautiful graphic novels!

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Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?

Sitting across the couch, probably with my feet up.

Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?

I try to not read the same authors over and over again. I love finding new ones and old ones that I’ve never encountered before. Just listening to recommendations and wandering through book stores has led me to find things like The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin.

Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?

I met Werner Herzog when he was signing Conquest of the Useless. He makes these awe-inspiring, bleak, and often brutal films, but he was so humble and sincere. It was a fantastic experience.

Q: How do you mark your place in a book?

Dog eared pages or the flap of a dust jacket.

Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?

52 Pickup by Elmore Leonard, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez, Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?

Tough one… Part of me says “Hemingway,” but I feel like we’d spend the whole meal drinking grappa and talking about him (and he didn’t exactly have a sense of humor, particularly about himself…).

So I think I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. He always spoke so frankly about writing and the writing process – I’ve always admired his honesty. It’s reflected in his writing as well – there’s nothing extemporaneous in his prose.
We’d hang out, probably in Detroit, at a Tigers game, which means beer and hot dogs all around. I don’t even know if we’d talk about books, but I’m sure it’d be a nice time.

Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?

I wrote a piece about books not matching their cinematic counterparts, and how that should be expected and even celebrated – you can read it here.

And I’m a sucker for the Anatomy of a Bookshelf series. I love getting a glimpse into someone’s personality via their bookshelf.

Jonathan Robertson is a New York based filmmaker who will never be as cool as Steve McQueen. And that crushes him. But he still tries. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @itsjonrobertson for musings on film, literature, and occasionally Mexican food.

2016 Reading Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve! Whether you’re getting ready to welcome 2016 in with a night out, or by hunkering down for a night in (wrapped up in blankets and clutching a mug of hot cocoa, preferably), you have to ask yourself one important question:

What’s my Reading Resolution for 2016?

Last year BiblioSmiles contributors shared their reading resolutions in this post here. I loved returning to the post throughout the year to remind myself of my resolution, which was to read the books I already have on my shelves – especially the biographies. While I didn’t touch a single biography this year (sigh), I did make a dent in the unread books on my shelves, so I’m very happy about that!

What’s my resolution for 2016?

This year, I want to branch out into other genres and forms. I’ve started reading some comic books (the Sex Criminals series by Mat Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is intriguing, funny, and weird), which is something I’d like to delve into more in 2016. I’d also like to check out some poetry collections.


I asked some other contributors for their 2016 reading resolutions. Let us know what your resolution is in the comments below!


The books I want to read next year are the same ones I wanted to read this year. As for next year, maybe I want to continue my exploration into the 33 1/3 series?



This year, I’d like to keep up my streak of reading 50 books a year in the Goodreads annual challenge. I want to branch out to reading more of other genres, like classics, nonfiction, and poetry. With so many great books coming out all the time, it’s impossible to keep up!


I bought From Hell by Alan Moore a few years ago, and it’s been staring at me from my bookshelf ever since. So this year I’m finally going to dig into it.



I definitely think in 2016 I want to read more fantasy that isn’t European in influence. I have a few titles already planned out like Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, but I’m going to be on the lookout for anything else I can find that’s not just castles and kings. Also, since I’m finally coming home from Korea, I’m making it a resolution to invest an obscene amount of money in some of the gorgeous hardcovers that have come out since I’ve been gone!



My goal in 2015 was to read 45 and I ended up reading 80 books! I would love to read 80 books again (fingers crossed), but I’m making my 2016 reading goal 60 books, so I can feel good about myself when I go over. I would also really, really like to read all of my unread books on my shelf.

I hope you’ve enjoyed everything you read in 2015 – and I wish you many pleasant reads in the new year!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.


Books Aren’t Movies… And That’s Okay

[Editor’s note: I’m so pleased to welcome a fellow SUNY Purchase alum, Jonathan, to BiblioSmiles! Read his awesome piece on books and movies below, and be sure to follow him on Twitter: @itsjonrobertson.]

In the 1960s, crime novelist James M. Cain was interviewed by a fledgling reporter who asked “What do you think of what Hollywood has done to your books?” Cain had sold the rights to many of his novels (Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity) to movie studios, dating back to the 1940s. Cain replied:

“They haven’t done anything to my books. They’re right there on the shelf. They’re fine.”

For as long as cinema has existed, filmmakers have used literature for narrative source material. It makes sense, really – both can easily contain plot, story, and character. And there’s an added sense of security for a film studio to invest in an adaptation of a best selling book because the source material provides both a solid story foundation as well as a built-in audience.

Even if the film adaptation doesn’t fare well, there is still a devoted group who will head straight to their local cinema on opening night to spend a few hours with characters and a story they love, made from a new perspective at twenty four frames per second.

No matter how faithful or derivative the adaptation proves to be, you’ll no doubt hear (or even say yourself) “The book was so much better. They left out so much.” Or “[Character] was nothing like what I imagined. Horrible casting!”

But I think that part of the reason for this reaction is that film and prose literature are so completely different in how they are experienced.

Viewing a film is a shared experience, brought to you by a group of filmmakers and artists who are telling a story to an entire room of people munching popcorn. It’s a great experience, but how can it even be compared to reading, which is so often a quiet, isolated experience?
The answer is: It can’t.

So I’d argue that one should never be disappointed about the translation of a novel onto the silver screen – rather, one should approach the film knowing that it’s another artist’s tribute to the source material.

Let’s take a look at The Shining, which was written by Stephen King in 1977, and adapted to film in 1980 and to TV in 1997. When you read The Shining, you’re experiencing the characters and a story via a one-on-one translation from the author to you. The words spoken by the characters, the details, the story – all are being related to you by the author himself. Any details that your mind fills in (the appearance of a character or their voice, for instance) are yours alone.


But when you see the 1980 film you’re experiencing the story through the following people:
Stanley Kubrick, who directed the film and wrote the screenplay with
Diane Johnson.
John Alcott, who shot the film with
Ted Churchill operating the Steadicam rig.
Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, and Danny Lloyd, playing the family in peril.
And Ray Lovejoy, who edited the film.


And those are just the principal cast and crew. There were dozens of others involved in the production of the film, and dozens more involved in the marketing and distribution of the it. So it’s meritless to be disappointed with the film because it didn’t give you the same or a similar experience as a book because in reality, they’re two completely separate entities.


Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut once engaged in a book-length conversation on cinema and art (published as Hitchcock/Truffaut – a brilliant read), in which Truffaut asked about Hitchcock’s approach to adapting literature. Hitchcock said:

“What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema. Today I would be unable to tell you’re the story of Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds. I read it only once, and very quickly at that.”

A book exists unto itself, and attempting to adapt it as closely as possible is ultimately a fruitless endeavor because the film will never in two hours, accomplish what a book can in two hundred pages. And that’s alright – they’re completely different. Literature and Cinema are separate mediums, each with their own possibilities, many of which they don’t share with each other.

So the next time one of your favorite books finds its way on to the silver screen, when they miscast a character so horribly that you cringe, or they change the ending to allow for a sequel, remember:

That book is still on your shelf, and it’s fine.

Jonathan Robertson is a New York based filmmaker who will never be as cool as Steve McQueen. And that crushes him. But he still tries. Feel free to follow him on twitter @itsjonrobertson for musings on film, literature, and occasionally Mexican food.