Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’d Love to See As a Movie/TV Show

As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic: top ten books you’d love to see as movies/tv shows. I could only think of eight. Some of these might already be films, so if you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

1. Private series by Kate Brian
– I know this was an internet series, but I think it deserve to be on tv, a la Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.

2. The Passage by Justin Cronin
-This would be great as a Game of Thrones esque tv series.

3. Hyperion series by Dan Simmons
-Also, would be great as a tv show.

4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
– I don’t think a movie would do it justice, but who wouldn’t want to see The Cemetery of Forgotten Books on-screen?

5. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
-Would be great as an animated film. An adult cartoon.

6. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
-I imagine this as a great mini-series.

7. Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowtiz
-I’m honestly surprised this has never been adapted for tv. I guess there was one movie, that didn’t really get much attention in the states.

8. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
-I guess this is actually happening finally?

9. Privilege series by Kate Brian

-A spin-off of Private actually, but equally good.

10. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

-I loved this book and think it would be a great movie.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilization—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

There’s a lot that’s been said about this novel. In a way, it’s a hard novel to discuss.

Excerpt from the composer’s section:

Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a “sextet for overlapping soloists”: piano, clarinet, cello, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color. In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky?

I think people’s opinions about the novel (and film) can be neatly summed up by the last line. Is it revolutionary or gimmicky?

On the one hand, it’s exquisite. Six genres, six stories, six characters, six worlds, and the interlocking ties that pull them together. On the other, some of the genres verge on stereotypical. One section in particular sticks out to me as such, yet I loved that section the best. So who can say?

Definitely, the structure of the work is in part responsible for its notoriety. Gimmick or revolution, it certainly attracted attention. To paraphrase my friend, who was listening to it on audiobook around the same time I was reading, “It’s an interesting and good novel, but an excellent collection of short stories”.

My favorite sections were the journalist’s and the dinery worker’s. They also constitute the only two female characters in the novel. I don’t think I aligned with their stories just because of their gender. I think they are sort of representative of the types of books that catch my attention: thrillers and sci-fi, though not usually extremely far-future.

The cover is exquisite.

Whatever you think about Cloud Atlas, it certainly showcases Mitchell’s skill as a writer. The world-building, the language, the control, just wow.

I always try and read the book first, before seeing a film. Seeing this film is definitely next on my list! If you’ve seen both, what did you think? After reading this book, I’m frankly surprised they even tried to make a film out of it.

 

Go See: Argo

I don’t make it to the theaters very often. But when I do, it’s usually because the movie promises to be awesome. Argo was one such example. I watched this on Sunday night with some friends. Produced and directed by Ben Affleck, it was as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’d been excited about it ever since I saw the trailer a few months ago and was glad to finally go and see it. The suspense was taut, the plot moved at a brisk pace, the danger and fear palpable, the stakes hike. Excellent film.

What it’s about:

During the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the CIA plots to rescue six Americans under the cover of a fake science-fiction film
Who’s in it:

Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and others.

Cautions:

This film is rated R. Some violence (though I’ve seen worse). Lots of suspense (of the nail-biting variety).

Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Awe and exhiliration–along with heartbreak and mordant wit–abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love–love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation. 

I’ve now read this novel twice and my opinion of it has not altered. Lolita is quite the masterpiece. It takes sheer talent to make the reader root for a character they should absolutely hate and despise. A middle-aged man obsessed with a child? Pedophilia. But also, something else. The most impressive thing about the novel, which particularly struck me the first time I read it, is how skillfully we’re drawn into Humbert’s world. Some criticism argues that Lolita’s ‘voice’ is eradicated from the novel and we never get a sense of who she is. I think it’s there though. Very subtly, it’s there.

Th novel is primarily about Humbert. And Nabokov’s writing is excellent. Sophisticated and eloquent, the writing alone makes up for any moral repugnance in the plot. And I do have to say, I very much enjoyed the plot of Lolita. The story is clever and interesting how Humbert rarely makes many decisions. Outside circumstances are constantly at work, opening and closing pathways. Some narrators bulldoze a path through their world and others let the path come to them. Humbert is one of these.

I’ve been analyzing this novel in conjunction with Stanley Kubrick’s take on Lolita. My research has illuminated something quite interesting. Spoiler alert: Humbert’s love for Lolita is what ultimately makes this novel redemptive. Out of something bad/morally wrong, you get something right and true.

The thing about this novel is that it’s really not for everyone. It always bothers me when people go and read a novel and come back with, “It’s racist, it’s anti-Semitic, it’s patriarchal, it objectifies women” etc. Much is to be made of context and knowing what the book is about before you sit down to read it. So much of these social/moral problems in texts stems from the time period in which it was written. Your nineteenth century American novel is racist? Shocker. Your seventeenth century British novel has weak female characters? You were expecting something different? I think when you read something, you should always know what you’re getting into. I don’t think there’s anything worse than calling out a book on something that is either fundamental to what it’s trying to do or fundamental to the society/time period in which it was birthed. Lolita was scandalous for its time, no doubt about that. I just don’t want anyone to come back and say, that novel was disgusting why ever did you recommend it? See all of the above.

There are two Lolita films: the Stanley Kubrick and the Adrian Lyne. I’ve only seen the Kubrick and I highly recommend it. It’s an extremely non-erotic take on the Humbert/Lolita story. Kubrick’s film is very comedic and entertaining. If you haven’t seen it, go and rent it. I’m planning to see the other one at some point, though I’ve essentially heard, “There’s a good Lolita film and a bad one”.

Happy reading my friends!

Novels and Films: Not an Either/Or

The ago old debate for bibliophiles and cinephiles and lay-people alike is a question not unlike the chicken and the egg paradox: which do you prefer, the novel or the film? It is a question that has inspired a war with no end in sight. One must necessarily be less awesome than the other. Bibliophiles throw their hat in with the novel and cinephiles, I suppose, root for the film.

I’m purposing an idea that might be a tad radical: Novels and films aren’t comparable. They simply aren’t. They’re different mediums with different rules. Novels and films are more complementary than they are rivals.

As a film studies student and movie-goer, I’ve found reading the novel/short-story upon which the film is based enriches my enjoyment of the film. I enjoy seeing what the director does with the latent material, what they choose to include and what they leave out. What it comes down to is that they’re boiling down many hours of material into a 2 hour easily digested film. And this is a good thing.

The BBC made Pride and Prejudice into a mini-series with a run time of 300 minutes. 300 minutes= 5 hours. I have seen part of this miniseries, but never the whole thing. I frankly prefer the Keira Knightley version. Yes, go ahead and spit on me. The main problem with this is that Pride and Prejudice isn’t a horrendously long book to begin with (George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). So what it boils down to is a complete and total re-hash of the book. That’s it. And what would I rather do in those five hours? Read the novel.

Since I brought it up, let’s move to Martin’s HBO mini-series. I read the first novel and I recently started watching the first season of the mini-series. In the case of Martin, I would argue that this novel is best served by a mini-series. Each one is somewhere around one thousand pages each- that’s a lot of material to condense into a two hour film. And what is more, the story is so complex since we’re constantly moving in and out of storylines that it would be a complete and utter failure as anything, but a miniseries. Even so, the miniseries isn’t just a rehash of the novel. Cuts occur, creative liberties are taken, etc. But this makes sense. I see little point to sitting down to something that is an utterly faithful copy of the novel. You took the time to read the book…why do you need to take the time to sit on your ass and do it again, albeit in a less intellectually-stimulating fashion?

I realize I’ve been talking mainly about mini-series, but my true objective is to deal with film. Fair enough. Let’s start with an example of something that is too faithful to its novel origins. Twilight. The first one. I can’t bring myself to sit through any of the others. I was vaguely interested in seeing the fourth one, but the trailer just killed me and I couldn’t do it. The main problem with the movie, to my mind, is that it’s too faithful. Now, how can that be a bad thing? How can you end up with a worse film than the novel if you just copy the novel? The problem with being so faithful is that you end up conflating the mediums. The dialogues in Twilight, while passable on the page, sounds utterly ridiculous and comical coming out of the mouths of real people.

Harry Potter, while yet another pop culture phenomenon, is a series that got it right. While many people were mad about things they skipped/left out, I think what we were left with in each film was the purest escence of what the story is about. Rowling has seven hundred or so pages in each book to roll around in the wonderful world of Hogwarts. And we love her for it. But that it also why they built a theme park. So we don’t have to watch seven hundred pages worth of material.

In the end, what happens between films and novels is an attempt to create something that is the same, but different. And that is more than okay.