Sunday, April 01, 2007

Books that should be movies-or simply be read

by Escutcheon Blot
Over the past few years I have had a lot of time to read...not having understood German well enough to enjoy TV or films. That has changed, and I now understand 98% of what I hear. I would, however, like to put forth a few titles which I think deserve a broader audience. I realize that these are more likely to be seen than read. Loath as I am to intrude upon the baliwick of the other fine contributors to Liverputty Intl., I am listing, then, a few books that should--nay must--become movies post-haste, so that I may view their mangled corpses on my next trans-atlantic flight.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth 1993

A wonderful, Austen-esque epic set against the background of post-partition India. An upper-middle class girl and her overbearing mother chase after acceptable young men of the proper caste for the purposes of matrimony. Rather long, but absolutely worth the strain on the wrists. Perhaps a BBC adaptation?

Rhubarb by H. Allen Smith 1946

A hilarious little book about a large, irritable, yellow tom-cat who inherits a baseball team. He is then sued by the daughter of the previous owner in a process presided over by a judge who translates romantic pulp fiction into ancient Greek in his spare time. With the advances in computer animation, this should be no problem to actualize (the cat doesn't talk-thank God).

The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark 1957

A strangely moving coming-of-age story set in rural, coastal North Carolina; an adolescent boy and his grandfather go 'a huntin' and the boy learns a lot about life along the way. A window into the philosophy of the first conservationists (like Teddy Roosevelt) shorn of romantic anthropromorphism of the natural world...a perfect vehicle for Charlton Heston before it's too late...if it isn't already.

The Winter of our Discontent John Steinbeck 1961

One of the, relatively few, good books of the period to accurately portray the coming disconnect between the feel-good, get-rich ethic of the 50's and early 60's and the all-too-easily corrupted idealism of the late 60's. And, of course, the parallels between the moral dilemmas of the main character and those of today's stock optioned millionaires and billionaires are rather nicely obvious.

The Memoirs of Hadrian Marguerite Yourcenar 1954

Just a good old Roman epic...Stern General acclaimed emperor, builds lots of beautiful and useful buildings (his Wall in England and the Pantheon, most notably), writes love poetry in Greek, finds the beautiful boy, Antinous, loves him, sacrifices him to the gods, dies...later. And a palate-cleanser after Gladiator and 300.

Trilby George du Maurier 1894

A nearly forgotten book about psychological control and the artistic unknowable, in which was created one of the great characters of literature, the evil Svengali. Needs to be sponged of some of the more egregious anti-Semitism...but hey, we do that with Dickens all the time. Allen Rickman would be absolutely perfect for Svengali. (This may already be a movie, but if so, it was so long ago that it's time for a remake)

A Confederacy of Dunces John Kennedy Toole (1980)

A posthumous, stand-alone effort by an early-dying creative writing teacher. Actually, I can't for the life of me think why it hasn't become a movie already. If only the comic book store guy from the Simpsons could be engaged in a live action film...he is the perfect Ignatius J. Reilly.

Three Men in a Boat Jerome K Jerome 1889

Okay, this may have been done, in the 1930's with rapid-fire Oxbridge English which even the English have a hard time understanding today. I don't know's just a guess. But it's a very funny book which puts three bachelors on a canal boat for an unconscionably long period of time. Sort of a human Wind in the Willows vis-a-vis Toad's Canary Yellow Coach.

Some of these books, as I have said, may have already been made into films. But they were either no good, or have been completely forgotten. I am a book guy, not a film guy, and perhaps should simply have recommended them to be read. But hey, a little stretching shouldn't hurt.


Escutcheon Blot


Edward Copeland said...

They've tried and failed for years to get a movie of A Confederacy of Dunces up and running. I believe the problem is that I needed to play Ignatius, but alas that is impossible now.

jeffrey said...

I'll have to put most of those in the "must simply be read" category as the only one I've read was Dunces. I never thought I would hear the Scutch recommend a Steinbeck novel. For some reason, I thought you would have some resistance to his work (then again, I'm not familiar with his latter stuff, I guess).

Ed: I believe you would make the perfect Ignatius, but how's your acting ability? Can you close and open your valve on queue?

EscutcheonBlot said...


I love Steinbeck's prose, which I find very opposed to Hemingway's brutality. I'll admit I'm no fan of "In Dubious Battle", but other than that, I really like his stuff.

I would recommend to my beloved Liverputtians two websites where one can buy almost any book published in the last 150 years(in English) for relatively little money. and These are both data bases of used book sellers; in the case of Alibris, there is also a UK branch, which makes the likelihood of finding your title in an affordable used copy...or a fantastically expensive 1st edition.'re right of course, in that your Ignatius would be definitive. But who would play your mother? Rhea Pearlman?

EscutcheonBlot said...

that should have read..."much greater."(regarding liklihood) Sometimes overly long sentence whip back to bite you on the ass.

Ross Ruediger said...

"Scutch" is the name of the school bully Robert Crumb refers to over and over in the CRUMB doc. FYI.

Hopefully this doesn't fall under the heading of splitting hairs, but am I the only person who thinks a mere movie of DUNCES would do it a big disservice? I'm all for a 6-hour HBO or Showtime miniseries though.

jeffrey said...

Ross: would you settle for a movie and a sequel? Not sure where the split in the story would be...I guess we should ask Ed, since he'll be cast in it.

Ed: if my cat can lose some weight to fit the part of a stray - would you consider using him in the hotdog stand scene? He doesn't take direction well, but he's naturally photogenic.

EscutcheonBlot said...

Ruedi! I never asked to be called Scutch, so I can't get excited when someone of a less sterling character is also called that.

Jeffry. Your cat is indeed quite the photogene. He has picked up quite a following among the disaffected Hasselfhofers here in D'land.

And I suggested books whose plots I though simple enough to be easily actualized on the silver screen. Even the Seth book, which is huge(over 1300 pages) is relatively straightforward, more like a Bollywood epic than an East of Eden or something similar.

Maybe Dunces would benefit from a Tales of the City-like adaptation, which I remember as being surprisingly good...for TV, that is.

Read Rhubarb. Naive but very fun.

Ross Ruediger said...

Scutch...I mean Blot...

Yes! TALES OF THE CITY and its PBS adaptation is specifically the type of translation I was thinking of for DUNCES. Admittedly, TALES is not a "long" book, and it ended up as a near page for page type of thing, which would be tough to pull off with DUNCES.

But I just cannot see the richness of Toole's material crammed into 2 hours (propose 3 hours and it'll never get made). Even at 6 there'd still be sacrifices, but in order to get something resembling the scope of the story, it's very hard for me to see it in 2.

But if they made it even at 2, I'd be there no doubt.