The cover of A Match Made In Space is described here as “a bedroom with a space alien very reminiscent of Marty’s Darth Vader speaking to a young man cowering beneath the covers” which is awesome mainly for Gipe’s insistence that he put “space alien" in there in case we go away thinking A Match Made In Space is about an illegal Darth-Vader lookin’ Foreign National who is scaring a dude.
The movie goes through this quickly, and it’s almost too quick! Lorraine says its his first book, George says to his kids if they put their mind to it they can accomplish anything, and them BAM we’re busy with the 4x4. I guess I always wondered if the book was actually any good and if it sold. How is George an accomplished author if his first book is just coming out today?
Well FEARS: ASSUAGED, thanks to this Brady-Bunch level dialogue / entire scene!
"Holy cow," Marty said. "You wrote that, Dad?"
George nodded proudly. ”My first novel,” he said. ”I sure hope it sells.”
"Of course it’ll sell," Lorraine gushed. "After all, it’s not like you’re a nobody. You’ve been selling stories ever since college."
"That’s right, Dad," Dave added. "You’re the one who’s always telling us to have confidence and a positive attitude. Where’s yours now?"
"You’re right," George said. "I’m sure this book is going to do just fine."
Hold on hold on this sappy heartwarming family moment isn’t over yet!
Then, turning to Marty, he put a strong hand on his shoulder and said: “And that tape of yours is going to do just fine, too.”
Cue the audience saying “awwwwwww” in unison!
At this point Biff (“standing with a deferential smile during the previous conversation”, this dude has been transformed) gives Marty the keys to the 4x4 (Gipe taking this for-real-last-chance opportunity to drop some more brand names as he reminds us it’s “a tricked-out black Toyota SR5 truck, as shining and beautiful as when it sat on the showroom floor”), and Marty runs out and climbs inside and begins to have sex with it!
He ran to it, got inside and caressed the upholstery,
oh baby don’t stop
oh BABY, KEEP CARESSING, JUST GO NUTS WITH WHAT YOU CARESS, TELL ME WHAT YOU CARESS NEXT
every switch and dial within reach
that’s it, I’m done, Marty be sure to clean up the seats when you’re finished
An interesting difference between the movie and the book: here in booktopia, George asks for two coats of wax, and says the coat last time was a little sloppy:
"Yessir!" Biff replied in a voice that was friendly and eager to please. "You’re the boss, sir!"
Meanwhile in the movie, George asks for two coats of wax, Biff says he’s finishing up the second coat, and George says “Don’t con me” and Biff says “I’m sorry, I was just STARTING the second coat”. So movie Biff still has some of his jerky ways about him (old Biff remains an echo of his formal self!) while in the book, new Biff is completely transformed (/ old Biff COMPLETELY KILLED) and he just wants to do a really really good job.
Anyway remember when Lorraine almost got raped by Biff? George and Lorraine do! They think about it with a smile.
"I’ve had to keep Biff in line ever since high school." Then [George] added with a smile: “Although if it hadn’t been for Biff, your mother and I would never have met.”
"Yeah, Dad," Linda interrupted. "You’ve told us a million times already. You beat him up when he was bothering Mom and that’s how the two of you fell in love.”
"It was more than that," Lorraine added. "Your father literally came to my rescue." She sighed. "It was so romantic…"
Again, this works way better in the movie because the sexual assault was played down as much as is possible AND Linda and Lorraine don’t have this back and forth. Here in the book, where the word “rape” was used and her dress was torn open by Biff, this whole exchange is just really really strange. You can read it like George and Lorraine never telling their kids the full details, but Lorraine is still really into this night. Lorraine I don’t know what your deal is!!
Hey, remember how Marty kept going for those time travel laffs while he was in the 50s? He’s not the kind of guy to leave well enough alone, so at least he’s being consistent here in the 80s:
“Whatever happened to the other guy?" Marty asked.
"What other guy?" his father asked.
"The guy I was named after."
"Oh," Lorraine murmured. "We never saw him again. He vanished into thin air." Then, looking at Marty closely, she said "I don’t remember ever telling you about him."
”Well, you must have. Otherwise I wouldn’t have known, would I?”
And man this exchange is winky and terrible and only exists so Marty can lord his time-travel knowledge over his family, but it could’ve been worse. In the first draft of the movie, George goes back to a photograph of that night, looks at Marty in the photo and says something like “Naaaahhhhhhh, it couldn’t be!” and then the movie ends which is even winkier and terribler (and YES if you understood “terribler” it is so a word). This first draft also solves the “two Marties" problem by having Marty 2 walk into a bathroom and TOTALLY DISAPPEAR, an event glossed over by Doc in one line and never mentioned again which is so unsatisfying that I can see why they simply ignored the problem in the final draft rather than try to attempt an explanation!
While everyone is reminiscing about Lorraine’s Busy Night, Biff walks in with a book called A Match Made In Space!
SPOILER ALERT: GEORGE MCFLY WROTE IT :0
SPOILER ALERT 2: OMG WHAT IS GOING ON WITH HIS HAIR IN THAT AUTHOR PHOTO
SPOILER ALERT 3: THERE’S, LIKE, A WING AT THE BACK??
Lorraine puts her arm on Marty’s shoulder (familiar physical contact suggesting an easy relationship between these two characters! YES) and then says “Tonight’s the big night, isn’t it? Isn’t tonight your big date with Jennifer Parker? She’s such a nice girl. I really like her a lot.” Gipe lets us inside Marty’s head and then shoots down his own rhetorical questions:
Marty could hardly believe this was his mother talking, even taking the physical transformation into account. Could this be the same woman who continually bad-mouthed Jennifer? Obviously not.
In both the movie and the book, Marty says that he can’t go because the car’s wrecked. In the movie, everyone freaks out and is all “Wrecked? When did this happen? How come nobody told me?” and then they go outside and see the car is fine. In the book, nobody freaks out but instead they take this opportunity to awkwardly hit us over the head with what happened, in case we’re all as slow as Marty:
"Wrecked?" Dad said.
"He’s been like this all morning," Dave explained. "It’s like he went to bed and woke up in a different house with strange people.”
Wait wait, it gets better:
That was indeed the case but Marty didn’t say so.
Wow, Brother Dave sure is speaking naturally, and just like who had no idea what just happened would speak! They all calmly go out to see Biff waxing the car:
There in the driveway was a sparkling new BMW. Next to it stood Biff Tannen, polishing diligently. His expression also seemed subtly altered, devoid of the usual arrogance and belligerence. As he worked, he whistled a happy tune.
Out loud, Marty says “Geez,” and then “to himself” (though how his family standing right beside him knows which is which is a mystery) he says “What a difference a belt in the chops can make”.
So! Altered Biff: the dude goes from manager (of at least George McFly) to owning his own car-detailing business which as a self-employed dude (reviewing this crappy book = TOTALLY MY JOB) I can see as a step up. And he’s given up on a lot of his anger too, which is great! And here in the book he’s whistling a happy tune, which shows he’s even happier. So, hooray! Happiness!
But, maybe things aren’t so great? It makes me think of those dystopian science fiction futures where people get their minds messed with. Is Biff really happy? Or is his business in trouble and he’s putting a brave face on his faltering life? It’s pure speculation, obviously, but it’s a troublesome part of the ending because if Biff’s life isn’t unarguably improved like the McFly’s lives have been unarguably improved, then Marty has kind of done an ultimate dick move on Biff: improved his own life at the expense Biff’s. He’s used Biff (intentionally or not) and there’s all sorts of consequences we don’t see: for example, if Biff had kids in 1985 Prime that he didn’t have in this new 1985, there used to be some alive kids running around that aren’t running around anymore because WHOOPS THEY NEVER GOT BORN, HOPE THOSE STRAWBERRIES WERE WORTH IT MARTY
Something to think about, I guess! I know that Crispin Glover (dude played George McFly) argued to have something be wrong in this ending, to show that maybe messing with time wasn’t the greatest idea and there were unintended consequences. He got overruled, but that would make this ending even (arguably) darker!
All that aside, YES the fact that George and Lorraine hire to wax their car the man who tore her dress and tried to rape her in high school seems INCREDIBLY WEIRD no matter how you slice it.
Dave asks Marty if he’s all right, Marty says “Yeah. Are you guys all right?”, Dave says “Sure. Never better.” and then notices Marty’s got the music envelope in his hand and so offers to mail it from the office. I guess this sentence is there to confirm for us that Marty will actually get that letter mailed, so: ARC OF MAILING MARTY’S TAPE: CONCLUDED PRETTY UNAMBIGUOUSLY.
This next part is awesome:
Marty released the envelope and sat at the table. A bowl of fresh strawberries was waiting for him.
"I still don’t get it," he muttered. "Strawberries… eggs Benedict. We never used to eat that kind of stuff. It was just cereal with toast and a paper towel for napkins. What’s going on?”
Oh man, “toast and a paper towel for napkins”. I love it. I love that it’s structured so that one paper towel has to act as multiple napkins. I also love that strawberries is considered by Marty to be the height of decadence, to be eaten only on the finest, most delicate linens. At first I thought maybe we Canadians were blessed with affordable, commodity strawberries but then I did some research and OH SNAP, not only do they cost the same in our two proud nations, but also:
Prices that [American] growers receive for fresh-market strawberries have more than doubled since 1970 but have not kept pace with inflation… the trend of inflation-adjusted strawberry prices was nearly flat at the retail level, rising less than 4 percent in 14 years. Retail prices reflect costs of packaging, transporting, and marketing, which rose faster than farmgate prices.
There’s even a chart, showing real and adjusted-for-inflation prices!!
Strawberries have been a pretty affordable fruit for a long time, dudes! They even grow on the side of the road sometimes for FREE. Plus in Canada (and America) you can go to those “You-Pick Berries” (Canada) or “U-Pik Berr-eez” (America) places and pick your OWN strawberries and you only have to pay for the ones you bring to the cash, not the ones you gobble!! I get that if the (original) McFlys were super poor then maybe strawberries would be totally out of reach, but we know the Book McFly’s weren’t “can’t afford strawberries” poor: they’ve got multiple incomes coming in and own multiple cars. Plus they bought a whole ton of peanut brittle like it wasn’t even a thing.
Hey, while you and I have had this strawberries conversation Marty has been eating his big bowl o’ berries, and
Halfway through his strawberries, he heard his parent’s voices from the hallway. Their conversation was light and happy-sounding
Marty asks where they were, Dave explains they were at tennis, Marty (still not getting that things have changed) says that Mom and Dad don’t play tennis, and Sister Linda shoots him down:
"Then that explains why they’ve been club doubles champions for six years," Linda said archly.
"I can’t believe it."
"Where have you been?” Linda demanded.
Marty seriously considered telling her
when his folks walked in the room.
Marty’s parents look “tanned and healthy”, George “radiated confidence and self-esteem” and Lorraine looks “thin and dynamic-looking”. These are some rad healthy confident dynamic tanned parents, and Marty’s jaw literally falls open and he says “Mom! Dad! You look — great!”
And new improved Sister Linda I guess still doesn’t like Marty that much because she thinks Marty’s saying this because he wants something from them so she says “What can he want? He’s already got everything.” so better go back and make some more changes, Marty!
Oh wait you still haven’t realized that’s what happened because you’re incredibly slow, Marty!!
WORKING THEORY: Gipe thought that readers really enjoyed shouting at a book in frustration when the characters always act like they’re touched in the head, so he cracked his knuckles before sitting down to write this and said “Baby you are gonna LOVE THIS”??
Here we are at the end of CLIMAX TWO! We’ve already resolved one plot thread with “George punches Biff so George is now Tuff Stuff” and now this is the combined multiclimax resolution of “George kisses Lorraine / timeline gets restored / Marty says goodbye to his parents”.
First Lorraine tells Marty that George is going to take her home, and Marty says that’s great and that he’s got a feeling about her and George, and Lorraine says that she’s got a feeling too and OMG YOU GUYS SHE’S TALKING ABOUT LOVE, I THINK SHE’S TALKING ABOUT LOVE!! But in the book we remove all mystery and have Lorraine say “I sort of have a feeling, too. I think George could really make me happy." soooooooo yeah, no mystery there anymore! Good luck you kids!
In the movie Marty says he has to go but here he lies for no reason and conveys a more questionable story about how he to… leave town… tonight, which George and Lorraine accept without any questions. George says goodnight and goodbye, thanks him for all his good advice, and says he hopes he can do the same for him someday.
Marty laughed. ”You’ll probably give me more advice than I can possibly handle.”
Because he’s his dad! Marty leaves with his “by the way, if you ever have a kid and when he’s eight he sets fire to the living room rug… go easy on him” line which I like because it’s cute and it’s the one explicit example of Marty trying to set things up in his home life so things go better for him, and you want that in a movie where a teen goes back in time! And with that, Marty’s gone.
Alone with George, Lorraine says “Marty… Such a nice name.” like in the movie and OMG YOU GUYS SHE’S TALKING ABOUT NAMING ONE OF HER KIDS MARTY, I THINK SHE’S TALKING ABOUT NAMING ONE OF HER KIDS MARTY!!
BUT LET’S NOT TAKE ANY CHANCES OKAY
"Marty," she breathed. "It’s such a nice name. When I have kids, I’m going to name one of them Marty."
And I just realized now that it’s a little unusual that even though she likes this name this much she… saves it for kid number three? And “Dave” wins out as the #1 First Baby Name? But to be fair it would be pretty confusing to have Marty return to 1985 and meet his brother Marty, his sister Martyella, and suddenly everyone’s calling him “Dave” so good call I guess!!
Finally, the book (having been the only place where we get the George Goes To College But Is Chicken, And Everybody Can Go Ahead And Call Him That If They Want subplot) also resolves that here:
"Aren’t you rushing things a little?" George laughed.
"Well, maybe a little. I was thinking I’d like to go to college next year."
"Me, too," George said. "In fact, I’m gonna go no matter what my father says.”
So yay, closure! Though from a storytelling perspective it’s awkward because now we know that with this new college plan Marty has changed things more than he realizes, so we won’t be shocked at all when Marty goes back to the future and finds that he’s… totally changed things more than he realizes??
Marty’s still playing music and George loves it and Gipe wants us not to get too carried away!
Lorraine, the music, the congratulations of those around him, everything meshed into a pattern that said Happily ever after. He wanted the night to continue forever.
That, of course, was impossible.
Chastised as we just were for the implied momentary lapse of the fact that nights actually DON’T last forever, let’s proceed.
So unlike the movie where Marty goes Too Far and loses the crowd, in Bookland he goes Just Far Enough and everyone loves him!
Marty wrapped up the song with a final riff and stepped back, smiling, to acknowledge the thunderous applause.
We also don’t get the “This is your cousin Marvin. Marvin BERRY??” line above, which is too bad because it suggests the paradox of Inventions Without Inventors (Chuck Berry plays song, Marty hears song, Marty plays song for Chuck Berry before he invents it, Chuck Berry plagiarizes song wholesale, song exists in final timeline without anyone actually having invented it in the first place) which are always fun.
I’ve read a review or two of the movie that points out this scene functions to have Marty (a white dude) responsible not only for Chuck Berry’s song but also for the invention of that era of rock and roll itself which is a pretty literal whitewashing of American history, so… that is a thing. HOWEVER it is a thing that relies on only having a superficial understanding of the scene, and we are not about superficiality, are we? Because if we are then what are we doing reviewing a book at the page-by-page level??
Here’s the thing: in careful examination of the movie footage at near Zapruder-film levels, I have scientifically determined that the Chuck gag comes near the end of the song, where Marty’s already going off the rails! Chuck hears like 5 seconds of decent riff and then it all goes wrong, and he pretty much has to do all the legwork to invent his non-terrible version of the song (including coming up with 100% of the lyrics because he heard none of them), so THAT IS MY RESPONSE TO THIS CRITICISM. There’s not enough here that’s recognizable as JBG for Chuck to steal!
And you might say, hey, it’s possible that Marvin Berry collaborated with Chuck AFTER the dance to recover most of what Marty did (including the lyrics) to produce the song, which would explain why all the lyrics are the same after all! And while you’re folding your arms across your chest and saying “explain that, smart guy” I am looking up from the babes I’m benchpressing because I’m so ripped to say this:
"Where do we have proof Chuck’s song is the same as Marty’s?"
Because check it, we don’t know when Marty gets back to 1985 if Johnny B Goode is recognizable, or even if it still exists. Maybe when Chuck hears what’s coming over the phone he thinks it sucks and he says “Nuts to you, Marvin!” and hangs up and then writes a different song! Or he could just turn back to the version of JBG he was already composing and it’s unaffected by the noise he heard!
The bottom line is this: the only proof you have of Chuck plagiarizing Marty (and therefore a white man secretly inventing rock and roll and the culture around it) is if you somehow confuse the movie (where Chuck heard some of the song before he released it) with reality (where the song is the same and you are reading my website right now) and if you are doing that then hah hah hah what? What’s going on up in your head there, champ?
ANYWAY BACK TO THE BOOK:
Marty, “smiling, perspiring” comes up to George to congratulate him, and we get some weird use of the English language with “Biff was dead serious” to mean “Biff was knocked unconscious” (old man slang? It is, at last, finally, beyond me to tease apart):
"Congratulations," [Marty] said. "And just in case you’re wondering, Biff was dead serious.”
"Good," George said. The one tiny fear in his paranoia - that somehow Biff Tannen had faked being knocked out - was now laid to rest and George was completely happy.
And YEP that phrase “the one tiny fear in his paranoia” is super weird and in Classic Gipe Style, has never been typed onto the web EVER before now. Not even the shorter “the fear in his paranoia" has been typed before, I guess because it’s such a crazy image?? We are at the edge of linguistics here, and you’ve got to give props to an author who can come up with really odd ways of describing simple concepts because I just decided it’s mandatory.
ALSO MAY I JUST SAY IN CLOSING THAT WITHOUT THE “COUSIN MARVIN” JOKE THE FACT THAT THIS MUSICIAN IS CALLED “MARVIN BERRY” IN THIS BOOK IS REALLY WEIRD AND TOTALLY THERE FOR NO REASON
Update: aha! Many have told me that Marty was saying “Biff was dead serious” to mean that “Biff wasn’t in on the plan and really intended to hurt Lorraine”. That makes sense! FINALLY
Short update today!
This scene happens basically like in the movie: George and Lorraine are dancing to Earth Angel as Marty plays, someone (Dixon! HE’S BACK) cuts in, Marty’s fading away1 and can see through his own hand, George cuts back in and shoves Dixon “ten feet” away and Marty’s BACK, baby! It’s notable in the book because it has Marty saying “I… don’t feel so good…” as he fades out (adorbs) and, after he fades back in, doing this:
”Thank God!” [Marty] smiled.
Whipping the family photograph from his pocket, he laughed, did a little pirouette on the bandstand, and grabbed the guitar again. Linda, Dave, and himself were all back in the picture, completely intact, and the feeling in his hand told him his musical powers had been restored.
It’s also notable because here in the book Lorraine has her dress torn up from Biff’s attack on her and yet she’s totally down to go back into the school and dance up a storm??
END OF UPDATE
1. SO! As I’ve mentioned before I spent many an hour as a kid trying to figure out back to the future, and right now we are going to figure out this fading away thing. This is a whole childhood of thinking about time travel in this movie paying off here. Here we go:
To buy into Back To The Future, you need to accept not only that time travel exists, but that there exists a META-TIME, because changes to the timeline THEMSELVES take time: Marty stops his parents from meeting and rather than disappearing right away, he has a week in 1955 to sort this out before the consequences of that become critical. In other words, whatever change you make to the timeline ripples through it like a wave in a bedsheet, altering things as it goes, and you’ve got until when that wave catches up with you to fix things if you’ve done something dumb like prevent yourself from being born.
Proof for this is that Marty’s siblings faded away in order from oldest to youngest - the change caught up with them first! We’re going to assume you start to fade when your birth gets interfered with. The fading isn’t consistent (Brother Dave fades from top to bottom while Marty just gets less and less opaque), but we’re estimating! Here we could assume instead that you start fading when the date of your conception gets messed with rather than date of your birth, but we’re not, because that’s a rabbit hole of tracing events back to causes that puts us back in 1955 again.
So! Since we know the day Marty arrived in 1955 and stopped his parents from meeting (Saturday, November 5th), the day he started actually fading away (a week later on Saturday, November 12th, 1955), the year Marty was born (1968) AND we even can guess at the day (most stuff puts his birthday at either June 12th or June 9th (same as Michael J!)) we can calculate pretty reliably how fast this meta-time lets changes move in this story, which is how fast changes to the timeline propagate.
A change made to the timeline on November 5th, 1955 takes 7 days of real time to ripple through time and reach June 9th, 1968. That’s 4,604 future days to ripple through (inclusive, so we’re assuming that Marty was born near the end of the day, but it doesn’t make THAT much of a difference), therefore meta-time travels at about 657.71 times faster than regular time here.
One problem, cats and kittens: with this number Dave actually fades out too soon (he’s not born till 1963 but he shows effects of fading early in the morning of November 6th, 1955, and with our meta-time speed the changes should only 3.6 years out by then, back in good old 1959). So we adjust our theory to say that these changes here travel at a speed that AVERAGES out to that 657.71 times faster number, but it can go faster and slower in places.
This raises the question: what does this propagation speed depend on? Well, there’s actually evidence in the movie that lets us conclude that the speed of changes to the timeline is dependent how much it’s being changed from its original shape. AND I CAN PROVE IT WITH MATHS AND LOGICS:
So remember that Marty starts to fade, and then Lorraine and George kiss and BAM, everyone in Marty’s photograph fades back in right away, one after the other. This is obviously way faster than our number from before, but we incorporate this by assuming that the timeline is flexible, but like a spring, it has a preferred shape. Changes that restore it to its original form propagate much faster (30 years of timeline gets restored in about 4 seconds here, which is a meta-time transmission speed of a zany 236,676,945 times faster than regular time), while those that deform it into unusual shapes travel at our (much) slower speed.
HOWEVER: it gets more a teensy bit more complicated when you do something that changes the timeline back to its original form in one way, but changes it in another way (like oh I don’t know coming up with and then executing a plan to get your parents back together in such a way that one of them experiences an epiphany and moment of personal growth while the other gets assaulted??). In this case you have TWO ripples going out: the restorative one that puts things back as they were originally with children being born and what not, and the altering one that applies the changes from that baseline.
That’s RIGHT: two ripples, baby, and they’re travelling at different speeds, with the restorative one several orders of magnitude faster! This is critical because soon when Marty returns back to 1985 he’ll witness himself going back in time again as he remembers it happening, go to bed, and wake up in a future he barely recognizes. The restorative ripple goes through time, restoring his family, in about four seconds. We see that happen with the photograph.
What we don’t see (because Marty travels through time pretty quickly after this dance and never looks at the photograph again) is the alterations to the baseline timeline that are happening in the meantime, at a slower speed. These are the ones changing his family history to the “improved” edition. When Marty arrives in 1985 he actually gets there BEFORE the alteration ripple gets there (he’s travelled through time and in doing so jumped over the ripple travelling through metatime), so he can watch himself, then he goes to bed. As he sleeps the altering ripple catches up and changes things around him, causing him to wake up in a 1985 he doesn’t recognize. This ripple goes faster than the original one did, travelling 30 years in only about 8 hours of real time instead of a week, but here the changes are proportionally much smaller! All that’s changing is jobs and lifestyles for a few characters, we’re not dealing with an entire family never existing.
I hope that this post convinces you that changes to the timeline in the Back to the Future (Part 1) universe take time to travel through time, and that the speed at which this metatime allows changes is proportional to the size of the change being made!
INTERESTING ASIDE: One cool thing we get from this theory is that a more minor change Marty made in 1955 could’ve affected him while he was hanging out there, and it’s a shame he didn’t put any money in a bank account when he was there because midway through his week in the past he could suddenly discover that he’s rich!!
INTERESTING ASIDE 2: some of you are probably saying “Wait when Marty watches himself it’s the Lone Pine Mall instead of the Twin Pines Mall he remembers, this ruins the theory!” but ACTUALLY, it only strengthens it. One of the first things Marty does when he arrives in 1955 is kill a pine tree, and that minor ripple had a full week of real time to arrive in 1955. When I said earlier there are TWO ripples, I was simplifying: each change actually gets its own ripple, which propagates at a speed dependent on the magnitude of the change. This makes sense as soon as you realize that changes are obviously a spectrum, and not just “major” or “minor”. When Marty arrives in 1985 again it’s already changed from what he’s remembered in minor ways, in the process of changing in more major ways, and will change more over the next few hours as everything stabilizes into the new normal.
INTERESTING ASIDE THE THIRD: the fact that Marty isn’t altered as the timeline catches up with him is something we’ll deal with down the road, because it raises some timey-wimey issues too!
INTERESTING ASIDE FOREVER AFTER: Whoah I meant to write about a crappy novelization and got sucked up in really rigorous time travel theories, WHAT HAPPENED
END OF FOOTNOTES
Pages 218 - 219
If you’re interested in how stories are constructed, this is a pretty good example!
We’ve just had George punch out Biff! The movie does some fancy footwork here to keep this momentum going: Marty glances at his photograph and sees his family hasn’t been restored, his smile fades, and he takes off running: SOMETHING’S WRONG. Then we cut to Doc checking his watch, looking up as the wind picks up, and whispering “The storm.”: SOMETHING IS COMING. Then we cut to Marty running up to the band and Marvin’s talking about his hand and how they can’t play, and Marvin says “The dance is over… unless you know somebody else that can play the guitar,” and BAM: final cut to Marty, looking a little confused and out of place, playing guitar at the dance. SOMETHING IS HAPPENING.
It’s quick, efficient, with clean problems to be solved and it keeps the suspense going.
In contrast, the book, while hitting similar moments, is all over the place. Marty running up to George and Lorraine (again, pushing himself into their moment for no reason) so he can shake George’s hand and be stupid — “Great work, Dad, I mean, George.” — which George totally ignores because he has to for the story to work, weeeeee.
Rather than the visual image of his family fading away, Marty just stands there and reminds himself of what he has to do with this little passage:
A disquieting thought rushed through Marty’s mind - his work wasn’t done yet. Not only had he to make his getaway; he still had to get his mother and father together, have them kiss romantically on the dance floor.
I put in bold the part where Gipe pretends he’s a narrating a story from history times: my gift to you.
Gipe mentions the sound of distant thunder here, so at least that’s in there somewhere, but then the problem of the band physically not being able to play gets transmuted into the stupider problem of the dance being over and the band not WILLING to play because it’s quittin’ time and everyone in this story is a jerk??
"It’s not too late," Marty breathed. Then, in a louder voice, he said: "Hey, everybody! I think we should have one more dance just so this nice couple can celebrate!"
Everyone cheers (or in old man itis writing, there’s “a shout of approbation" (yes I looked it up, it means commendation, praise, or approval) (DID YOU KNOW: I believe you could get literally a thousand different people to write this scene and only Gipe would be the one to turn in a piece of paper describing teens cheering as ‘a shout of approbation’)).
Marty grabs George in one hand and Lorraine in the other and they all go running back into the dance while Marty shouts “Come on, gang!" (NOTE: this is not a joke, in this book this really just happened.) And the "all" there includes everyone who had just left the dance too, so Marty and George and Lorraine and the entire rest of the high school are running together. They jog past the musicians and Marty asks for one more dance and they’re all "Forget it. Dance is over," so Marty busts out his wallet and gives them all his money.
Reginald is okay with taking the money (“It’s O.K. with me,” he says) but then reveals that Marvin has cut his hand. Marty does his “But you’ve gotta play” line, because “if there’s no music, they won’t kiss and fall in love! And if they don’t fall in love, I’m history!” only in the book he says “I’m a goner” because why use a thematically-appropriate word when you can… not do that?
And AGAIN Marty is saying this in front of the entire student population of the school, including George and Lorraine, and AGAIN everyone just ignores it. (Nobody in Hill Valley reacts when someone talks crazy, I guess? It’s a very chill town/valley). Then Reginald The Dick agrees to letting Marty play the guitar because “It might be worth it just for the laughs” (REGINALD: YOU ARE A DICK) and all the kids run into the school and Strickland is confused and he gets overrun by kids and hah hah I love scenes like this because screw your rules, authority figures!!
"What’s going on here?" Gerald Strickland shouted over and over. Grabbing arms, he tried to force the students out of the hall but his efforts were ineffectual.
Marty starts the dance with a little introduction: “One more dance. A special number for my parents.” and this “one more dance” thing ties back to his first line in this book, remember? Marty’s in class with his headphones on and he sings “Let’s have one more dance!" out loud in the first of a series of very credible scenes from this novelization! IT IS A CALLBACK, YES.
The band loves Marty because everyone loves Marty because this book sometimes reads like Marty McFly author insertion fan fiction:
At first following the band and then confidentially taking the lead, Marty looked around. The musicians were casting quick glances his way, glances that told him they admired the job he was doing. He could see his parents dancing just a few feet away, their heads together. Now it was just a matter of time… all was going well.”
And everything is going great! Nothing bad could happen to ruin this dance! Come back tomorrow and we’ll see that I was totally lying to you with that last sentence!!
(ps: I cheated with these images because they’re from the second movie and that’s a slightly older Marty watching the scene but it’s a great shot so I guess we’re all gonna just have to deal with it, huh??)
Page 216 - 217
There’s a lot happening on these two pages so this is a long one!
One of the things I love about Back to the Future (AND AS YOU MAY HAVE GUESSED THERE ARE A LOT OF THESE THINGS) is that at the end of the story you get, like, five different climaxes one after another after another and we even get a musical scene where everybody dances and has a great time. It’s so satisfying! And this is the very first one, resolving the “George is a wimp” thread!
It gets resolved with punches!!
So in movieland George finally gets a spine when Biff tells him to beat it, so he says “No, Biff. You leave her alone.” but here in booktopia George says “You let her alone” which IS an old-fashioned way of putting it but I think I give this a pass since we are in the 50s after all and maybe George is the sort of guy who draws the fading grammatical distinction between the two phrases (leave alone = leave in solitude, let alone = stop interfering with)! OH SNAP YOU WANTED LAFFS BUT INSTEAD LEARNT GRAMMAR FACTS, HOW’S THAT TASTE??
Lorraine sighed. At last someone had come to her assistance. He wasn’t Marty, but in some ways he was even better. Her lips started to form the words “Thank you” even as Biff removed his hands from her body and started to get out of the car.
In the movie George throws a weak punch, Biff grabs it and starts twisting George’s arm, Lorraine tries to help, Biff throws her to the ground and laughs at her, and George is SO MAD AT HOW SHE’S BEING TREATED that he curls his fist, throws a punch, and knocks Biff out in a really great shot that cheats so we can see him spin around more than once! Yay!
This really dramatic scene is totally deflated by Gipe’s hilariously wordy and robotic prose. Check out this action-packed description!
[Biff] moved towards George, one large hand reaching out to grab any part of the interloper’s body. It brought back a large section of sleeve with George’s arm enclosed.
Turns out BIFF SHOT FIRST. George tries to punch but his “flailing fist” hits Biff “causing no damage or pain at all”.
"Help!" Lorraine shouted.
George wanted to yell the same thing, but managed to grit his teeth and choke off the cowardly word.
In this book Lorraine stays in the car, so that means Biff doesn’t push her down and doesn’t laugh at how helpless she is, so what gives George his chance to punch? Oh shoot, it’s just that Biff hears something that he thinks might be someone working with metal and gets really interested in that. Not even joking:
[Biff] applied more pressure. Then, far on the periphery of his circle of awareness, he heard a sound… like a faraway riveting… or was it running footsteps? Partly distracted, he allowed his grip to relax.
SPOILER ALERT: nobody is metalworking here at High Valley High, and that really just the sound of Marty running up to watch. This is awful, just awful, because it robs George of his one truly-earned emotional moment in the movie (getting sincerely furious at how Biff treats the woman he loves and punching his way through those feelings) and instead puts Marty there in the scene instead, still helping George out because I guess the poor guy can’t do anything on his own after all.
George throws his climax punch at Biff and “delightfully reminiscent of the duffel bag" (no surprises here, thanks book) Biff’s head gets knocked up and back "like it had been struck by a flying two-by-four" and he drops to the ground and lays there so long "that a referee could have counted to at least a hundred before there was the slightest movement of his body." Is Lorraine into this? UM YEP:
Lorraine’s sparkling eyes stared at George’s, projecting a message of total adoration.
And OF COURSE you have my permission to take that “eyes projecting a message” part TOTALLY AND CYBERNETICALLY LITERALLY.
Marty and the five musicians (Gipe is reminding us that they are black again, nobody forget how black these people are okay) are watching this. Marty can’t believe what he’s seeing because everything’s so perfect, and one of the elements of this perfection is the evidence of Lorraine’s sexual assault:
…Marty, who, followed by the five black musicians, had just arrived on the scene. But the picture was clear and perfect, with every detail in place - Lorraine’s torn dress, the prostrate form of the bully and nervously grinning face of the unlikely hero.
I feel like here Gipe realized that mayyyyyyyyyybe his writing wasn’t getting across the mood he was going for, so he decided to pull that classic Really Really Good Writing Trick of having other unnamed characters show up and be amazed at how awesome everything is. This is the very next sentence he writes, still in the same paragraph:
Others arriving on the scene immediately grasped the significance of the scene and were touched by it.
I hope you are glad that others arriving on the scene immediately grasped the significance of the scene and were touched by the scene.