Culture

The Temptation of the Unfilmable: 7 Books That Should Never Hit the Silver Screen

The news that Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card will make its way to theaters in 2013 got us thinking about books that are adaptable -- and those that are not. Ender's Game topped many "unfilmable book lists" for a number of reasons, the biggest one being that the success of the film would rest on the shoulders of actors between the ages of six and ten. No pressure, little guys. The cinematic success of Ender's Game remains to be seen, though our fingers are crossed that it achieves a "Harry Potter in space" effect.

Considering today's technology paired with large studio budgets, a case can be made that with the right director and actors, there is no longer such thing as an "unfilmable book." However, though both of these elements can help a movie get made, they do not ensure a film's success. We consider ourselves movie fanatics, though we are of the opinion that all books do not need to be adapted into films. This especially applies to books that rely heavily on stream of consciousness and less on plot to tell a story. With that said, here are seven books we hope are never accompanied with the tagline "coming soon to a theater near you."

Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
Salinger's initial willingness to have his books adapted disappeared after his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" was poorly translated into the 1949 film, "My Foolish Heart." From then on, J. D. Salinger wasn't shy about expressing reservations on how his writing would translate to a movie or play, evident from this acidic 1957 letter sent to a Hollywood producer. Over the next fifty years, numerous Hollywood kingpins such as Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Elia Kazan, and Leonardo DiCaprio were denied attempts to create cinematic adaptations of Holden Caufield's tale of teen angst. As we mourned Salinger's death in 2010, we were relieved to find out that, according to his agent, chances in adaptation of "The Catcher in the Rye" remain slim-to-none. We'll put that in the win column.

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
While Southern novelist William Faulkner fared well as a screenwriter, his own body of work presented more of a challenge in the adaptations department. Faulkner's experimental writing style was frequently characterized by stream of consciousness, which was especially prominent in two of his most celebrated works: Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury. We were surprised to learn that The Sound and the Fury, which told the story of the dysfunctional Compson family from multiple perspectives, was loosely adapted into the 1959 film starring Joanne Woodward, receiving mixed reviews. To date, a film attempt has never been made on Faulkner's abstract 1936 novel, Absalom, Absalom! which follows the rise and fall of Southern gentleman Thomas Sutpen from three interconnected perspectives. If this movie were to be made, we would nominate David Lynch, whose mind-bending films like "Mulholland Drive," "Lost Highway," and "Inland Empire" exemplify his ability to jump seamlessly between time and multiple perspectives.

At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft
In March, 2011, Universal Pictures pulled the plug on Guillermo del Toro's cinematic attempt at H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madnessdue to budget concerns ($150 million project estimate) as well as del Toro's insistence that the film have an R rating. Lovecraft's 1936 novella is centered around a scientific expedition to Antarctica, and the sprawling alien city across which they stumble. With a project this ambitious in scope, del Toro was correct to assess that this would be a film that requires an exorbitant budget in order to succeed. In our ideal world, del Toro and James Cameron (who was at one time attached as a producer) team up -- and Cameron uses some of his "Avatar" earnings to get this project back on track.

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace's 1996 magnum opus, Infinite Jest, is not recommended for the casual reader. Clocking in at over one thousand pages, Infinite Jest is set in a near-future satirical version of North America and touches on tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child abuse, family relationships, advertising and popular entertainment, film theory, and Quebec separatism, among other topics. In addition to the many subjects covered, Infinite Jest boasts over one hundred characters and close to four hundred footnotes. Exhausted yet? Though we personally would not know where to start with a film adaptation, others have attempted to bring Infinite Jest to life outside the pages. Germany’s leading experimental theater company, Hebbel am Ufer, recently pulled off the unimaginable by staging a twenty-four-hour stage adaptation of Infinite Jest.

Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Pynchon's complex 1973 novel, Gravity's Rainbow, contains multiple story lines centered around the development of a rocket by the Nazis near the end of World War II. We consider it unfilmable for a myriad of reasons, the main one being that there are a whopping four hundred characters introduced throughout the course of the novel. Cutting any of the characters or story threads would be like pulling out the middle block from a game of Jenga: it would all fall down.

Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce
Many readers would not describe James Joyce as an accessible writer, and Finnegans Wake  is considered his most challenging book by far. Joyce's final novel, written over the course of seventeen years, ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence. Taking place over the course of one night, the characters of Finnegans Wake exist in a fugue state, with no real plot advancing the story. Since the novel is entirely reliant on idiosyncratic language and multilingual puns, it is entirely possible that a viewer's head might explode upon seeing this type of complexity adapted for the screen. Some books should remain in their original formatting, and this especially applies to Finnegans Wake.

House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
Described by some as a horror story and by others as a love story, Mark Z. Danielewski's debut novel, House of Leaves, is just about as unconventional as you can get. Characterized by the frequent usage of footnotes, different text colors, and unusual page layouts, it is intentional that the reader feel a sense of claustrophobia during their reading experience. Though there are multiple plots, the main story focuses on a young family who moves into a new house to soon discover that their home's interior is larger than the exterior, and the knowledge of this begins to drive the inhabitants insane. Danielewski has refused to sell the movie rights, though that has not stopped fans from imagining the potential of a film. We are particularly fond of one fan's visual take on the opening credits.

We want to hear from you. What books do you consider unfilmable and why? 

  • Pacific Beliefs

    Great list - I was about to jump on & list HoL but this is the first time I've seen someone actually include it from the off!

    Just a side note - as un-filmable as FW is, someone did take a swing at it: Mary Ellen Bute (if memory isn't failing me).

    I haven't gotten around to watching it yet so I can't comment on the levels of success achieved but, put it this way, my hopes aren't high.

  • LGru

    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The scope, the depth of character development, the subtle humor, and the poetic nature of the narrative would be impossible to match on film. Luckily, Marquez has repeatedly denied rights to his masterpiece.

    • AnnMarie

      Agreed

  • Leena

    "Paradise Lost" is one I always hear is in the works, and I cringe every time. First, it's just long, I fear that a lot of the history and explanation would be cut. Second, I don't think the poetry and allusions and style could really be portrayed in film the way it is in print. Third, I think the jumps in the timeline would make a confusing movie. Fourth...well, I fear it would become nothing but nudity and explosions, and that really wouldn't be doing justice to such a masterpiece, nor to the purpose for which the epic was created.

  • Kevin Wallace

    I agree with this entire list (I think), especially The Catcher in the Rye. I would add, as a corollary to Finnegans Wake: I don't think any James Joyce work adapts effectively to film. Huston's adaptation of "The Dead" made for a nice film, but even that was surfacy, and over-reliant on voice-over for its climactic scene. Films I have seen of Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses were similarly failures that reduced complex explorations of language to mere plot details (though Milo O'Shea may be the definitive film image of Leopold Bloom). So I would say that instead of FW the entry should be "anything by Joyce."

  • Ashby

    Italo Calvino - Invisible Cities
    Richard Brautigan - Trout Fishing In America
    B. S. Johnson - The Untouchables

    Although I'd like to see them try.

    • Sarah Cahill

      Ashby, we completely agree in regards to Richard Brautigan. One of our favorite authors who we hope is never rendered on screen. So much would be lost.

    • Luca

      I'm not certain I agree about "Trout Fishing In America", I think with the right people it could be done incredibly well... Depp, DelToro and Cusack spring instantly to mind.

      I never would ave thought any of Hunter S. Thompson's books could be adapted well... but two were.

      • Liz Francis

        Agreed.

  • awake

    The Illuminatus! Trilogy

    terrific book-mindfuck , full use of stream-of-consciousness and most important it is HUGE page-wise (about 700-800 pages if I remember correct)

    I agree with HoL not being able to be filmed this is a SICK book

    (and i must give it again another shot and read it till the end)

  • london_welsh

    Some off the cuff suggestions:

    Flann O'Brien - The Third Policeman
    Neil Jordan - The Dream of a Beast
    Christopher Priest - The Affirmation, or The Glamour

    • Malc Dow

      Flann O’Brien – The Third Policeman

      I tried for the film rights for this 20 years ago... but was told 'no way'! But... I still think it would make a wonderful film!

      • peter

        Can I ask, please, who did you ask as regards the film rights for the third policeman? Do you have their details?
        Many thanks
        Peter

        • Gerard

          Hi Peter, I'm currently having several conversations relating to the rights for The Third Policeman. I'm not sure how to direct you to contact me from this chat...
          Gerard

  • london_welsh

    And in a slightly different vein - Maldoror.

  • Dan

    I still believe HoL could be filmed as a dark, fictional documentary of the Navidson record. It would lack the depth and layering that the book has, but it would still make for damned good film for lovers of the book.

  • Hairo

    Rayuela, from Julio Cortazar would too be unadaptable. I has many ways to be readed, many ways in which the story can end and begin (A few being a loop) and goes back and forth whithin many points of view.

  • Zach

    The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson would be another unfilmable book, especially since the book comes in a box and the passages are separated in a way that the reader can read the novel in any order they want.

  • http://n/a Gregory

    Ever since it was published, there have been attempts to film "A Confederacy of Dunces", no to avail. Even recently, there was a rumor of a movie starring Will Ferrell (meh) but I've seen nothing of it.

    Is this filmable?

    • Susan

      My question is why would anyone even want to consider filming A Confederacy of Dunces? The book was horrible enough to read. Why would anyone want to watch that mess up on the silver screen.

    • Bill C.

      Now Ferrell's out and it's Zach Giannifiakis ... four other proposed leads are dead ... it's a great cursed book, I tells ya.

  • http://www.typewriterpoetry.com b r

    Great list. Catcher In The Rye was my first guess. Infinite Jest, Gravity's Rainbow, and House of Leaves are a definite no. I'll have to read the rest of these books...there's something great about a book being 'unfilmable' :)

  • http://toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.com/ Will E.

    "...Lovecraft’s 1936 novella is centered around an astronaut expedition to Antarctica."

    *Astronaut*? No, it's just regular Earth scientists. No astronauts whatsoever. But I agree it shouldn't ever be a movie.

  • Paul Caughell

    Farnham's Freehold, Robert Heinlein.

  • ratzkywatzky

    Mary Ellen Bute's film, Passages from Finnegans Wake, is pretty inventive and entertaining, far better than the turgid Joseph Strick adaptations. As you can see from the title, it's not meant to adapt the book, just illustrate parts of it. Animator/artist Salise Hughes http://restoresalisehughes.weebly.com/ has also just made a 20-minute adaptation of selections from Invisible Cities.

  • Grayson Sanford

    A good list, in my opinion. Although they should have mentioned that another reason that Guillermo del Toro's adaptation of "At the Mountains of Madness" got pulled was because it was deemed to be too similar to Ridley Scott's "Prometheus".

  • Brandon

    This is ridiculous. With the right cast, crew, director, producer and budget, any of these books could become an amazing movie. Especially "At the Mountains of Madness".

  • J.B. Lee

    Alan Moore's superlative graphic novel WATCHMEN is unfilmable. Of that we now have adequate proof.

    • http://www.thefishshow.com/Archive/WATCHMEN%20UNMASKED.htm Avenging World

      They changed the ending of WATCHMEN because they didn't understand it.
      They built an entire replica of the Gunga Diner without ever once apparently reading Kipling's 'Gunga Din' in order to try to understand the significance of the reference.
      But don't get me started.

      http://www.thefishshow.com/Archive/WATCHMEN%20UNMASKED.htm

      " Did I request thee, Maker from my clay
      To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee
      From darkness to promote me? "

  • Gretchen

    Flatland. How do you make a film about two dimensional characters?

  • http://www.facebook.com/atoposchaos AM

    Believe it or not i have a film script of Gravity's Rainbow...it was a 5-8:30PM labor of love that took me a solid two weeks nonstop to finish...wrote to the Pynchons...his wife/himself denied optioning rights - surprise surprise.

  • Oud123

    Piers Anthony Incarnations of Immortality.. The budget would be astronomical..

  • Geeky Prof

    great list, and definitey agree on Lovecraft. the one I don't think would be filmable is Flicker by Roszak. Arronovsky was supposed to be working on it, but eventually the project got halted. while it is a book about films and techniques, it is complex in subtle ways that i don't think would translate well to film.

  • Coop Lee

    Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

    Three powerhouse filmmakers have risen and fallen at the reigns of this behemoth task. First with the book-to-film golden boy Todd Field (In the Bedroom, Little Children), and then with the decades deep masterclass auteur Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator), to most recently too hip to slow down wunderkind James Franco. Blood Meridian is a book with such scope, such mind-numbing violence and symbolism that it took me three false starts to actually finish the damn thing. And it was worth it. An adaptation of this epic western would be Apocalypse Now meets Once Upon a Time in the West if done right, or Inglourious Basterds meets Young Guns if done wrong.

    ps::: Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive, Valhalla Rising) has shown some interest in Blood Meridian. He might be the atmospheric stylish violence guy we need to pull this one off.

  • David Wiegleb

    "Gravity's Rainbow" has (sort of, very loosely) been made into a movie: "Impolex". http://impolexmovie.com/

    But yes, it would be nigh impossible to really do it justice in a film.

    I would have thought that "Naked Lunch" was unfilmable, but David Cronenberg took a stab at it.

  • Buckin von Bronco

    Infinite Jest can be done as a HBO series.

    • http://arjunbasu.com Arjun Basu

      I have long thought that Infinite Jest was a TV show.

  • Don

    Robert Pirsig- Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Cormac McCarthy -Blood Meridien

  • Raven Stromdans

    Although I'd love to see some one with the level of attention to detail and passion for the source material as Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings adapt "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant", in particular the First Chronicles, I can't see that happening. This is largely due to the thematic problem of the main character, some one we're supposedly intended to be sympathetic with, raping a trusting young woman early in the story.

    The fact that he had yet grasped that the fantasy world he found himself carried weight in his conscience and that he was a leper who could feel his genitalia again for the first time in several years is generally overlooked by readers and would likely be just as considered irrelevant by movie goers.

  • Joe W.

    Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The iconic "Judge Holden" would be difficult to get just right and I think the violence is too shocking for a film adaptation, even by current Hollywood standards.

  • Wallace

    JRR Tolkien - The Silmarillion.

    It would be impossible. And if they try, they will fail, it would be ridiculous.

  • Lucille Biss

    Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. It's a rhyme. Not sure the screen could do justice to it!

  • Kevin Drucas

    Add to that list Foucault's Pendulum and Rule of Four, wait...why are we adding beautiful works of art to a list whose sole purpose is to extend the idea that they could never be experienced in other ways?? People have a silly need to compa
    re the thing in one version to another after it has been transformed...when like a sonata vs the memory of a sonata, we would change the way our brain experiences data...by doing away with timing and focusing on the emotion of the thing--our take-away, or what we remember. Do we learn about butterflies by saying they are better than caterpillars? Not really. The "This is not for you" phrase reveals inner esoterics begging to be unravelled, like a dark flower unfolding its bloom, along with the realizations of life in an expansion of space and the inversion of that space within us. An adaptation of House of Leaves would be a different experience than the novel, but would bring more to experience the novel. Intertwining three or four arcs together in worlds that have some sort of differing glaring inconsistencies, like one world where the only color is red amidst grays and whites, another where architectural details always shift and blue is the only color on screen...or anything such that any one of these arcs (which could each be feature length) could be 'read' as a dream. The Navidson Record, Johnny's discovery of it and his association/correspondence with PHL, and 'Who is Zampano? The Echo of the House?' these would be viable explorations, but it may be necessary to create new material that condenses the experience of traversing the word-desert and its mysteries. The Editors? The Directors? There are certain roles that imply a rich story that takes place exterior to the world of the Novel, and that material could be tapped. This would take it down the road of what would basically be frankenHouse version of House of Leaves...But does not indicate that it would not be rich and beautiful. Novels and film both draw comparisons to architecture, so I believe that if any on that 'list' were successful, it would be this one. A world where a house can seemingly magically affect all evidence of the proof supporting its existence sounds like a different take on the Haunted Object narrative, yet could grow in all sorts of different directions during an adaptation. I have seen people musing lots of good ideas for directors, David Cronenberg could do it, though it would clearly transform/exchange complexities in crossing the membrane from one medium to another... I am willing to take that risk!

  • Chris

    The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. There's just no way to do it without either cutting huge amounts of material or splitting it into 6+ movies.

  • Pope Scooby

    While it they may not be considered real "Literature". Even with current technology I don't see how "The Chronicles Of Amber" By Zelazny could be made into a movie or show. There is just too much I see how to translate to film.

  • kassie

    House of Leaves should never be a movie. Imagination is needed to make it come alive. No ones interpretations are the same. THE main reason is because the actors/producers could not do it justice no matter how "good" they are. This is an amazing book and a movie could never grasp that.. I think it would turn out cheesy and taint HOL. HOL is a "difficult" book to read and I dont think people who aren't willing to read it should be able to watch the movie.. Just sayin.

  • Jack D Menendez

    Peter Jackson proved that no one should make the "Lord of the Rings" and he is no doubt about to prove that no one should make "The Hobbit". Though entertaining Jackson's movies barely catch a few of the most obvious themes but miss the underlying ideas completely; it just can't be done.

    • Bill C.

      No -one should have done the Tolkein epics because they are quite turgid ... Jackson should be applauded for, at least, making parts of them somewhat entertaining

  • bobzilla

    Dhalgren by Samual R Delaney though it cantains some very filmic elements

  • Beatriz

    I agree with Brandon to a certain extent. Any book can be turned into a film, for example in a Malick way. The question is if it is sensible to do so. Moby Dick adaptions were never satisfying for me up to now(though I liked the captain of the Enterprise as the captain of the Peqoud) and I think they never will. Still I want to see it on screen from time to time. The same feeling arises with some of the books from the list as well as Blood Meridian, Nostromo, The Divine Comedy ect.
    Sometimes it needs a director for the thing: I never thought about McCarthys "The Road" as a film but Hillcoat did it not so bad. At least he made it accesible to non-readers which I think is a good thing to do.

    I would add Pale Fire to the list.

  • Russ M

    The Worm Ouroboros. It would be monumentally difficult to portray these demigods accurately in a media lacking Eddison's heroic prose. They'd towse this gewgaw most affrightedly.

  • Erin

    Aside from the fact that Salinger didn't want Catcher to be made into a movie, the only reason I find that it shouldn't be made into a movie is because, really, every teen angst/alienation movie is essentially the same thing. On the same note, because of that, Hollywood would not be able to make it stand apart from other similar works.

  • Delores Washburn

    A WOMAN IN JERUSALEM by A. B. Yehoshua should not have been filmed--was a disappointment. The novel depends too much on the complex multiple literary allusions and the craft of writing that is mastered by Yehoshua to transfer successfully to screen.

  • Liz Francis

    Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
    Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
    The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski**

    **according to IMDb, "this project is categorized as in development" with a projected "date" of 2013. Uugghh.

  • chris

    A Canticle for Leibowitz should be added to this. I would love to see at the mountains of madness, but Lovecraft has yet to appear as anything other than a b-level film. I don't think his style is translate able.

    If anyone is up to the challenge I would put Bio of a Space Tyrant on the table though

  • alan

    Atlas Shrugged - ayn rand. I think it could be done theoretically but a story of that scope would have to be trimmed down substantially for a film version which would take away from the story

    • Coop Lee

      they did it. in two parts. and it sucks.

    • Arcendus

      The very idea of the story being turned into a movie is so ironic it would be humorous if it was just an idea... But they've been made real, and they're truly awful.

  • alan

    Also, and I actually don't think it's impossible, i'd like to see an adaptation of the fall of the house of usher, if it hasn't been done already

  • Shannon

    @topic of "unfilmable books":

    I'm really surprised that Stephen Kings' "The Dark Tower" series of seven novels was not mentioned in this list. I heard a rumor that film versions of the series were going to be made and I am very skeptical about how well that will actually work. Unless the whole series is made in CGI (as opposed to live action) I honestly just can't see it. I also cannot think of any actors who would be well suited to playing many of the characters, especially Roland who is supposed to look exactly like Clint Eastwood. (only younger than Clint Eastwood is now I think.) Also, I cannot think who would be cast as Susannah Dean.

  • Erik

    Italo Calvino - If On A Winters Night A Traveler
    Has anyone attempted to make the rambling, introspective Herzog by Saul Bellow - or anything by Bellow - into a film?

  • Andrew

    The four book Hyperion series by Dan Simmons; Hyperion, The fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. A truly great SF series that would be impossible to do justice on the screen. The cost alone would be staggering, not mention Hollywood hacks would ruin the story.

  • Thomas

    I have grave doubts about the proposed rendering (and I choose that word consciously) of "As I Lay Dying" into film, even with such a poetic aesthete as James Franco as director. I hope he can prove me wrong in my skepticism.

  • Joe M

    Gaddis' The Recognitions would be well-nigh impossible, I should think.

  • Lauren

    Salman Rushdie - The Satanic Verses.

    Apart from the fact that someone would probably be assassinated if they tried, I just don't think it could be done. So much of the complexity would, by necessity, have to be cut away to make it filmable, which would be cutting away the best part of the book.

  • Savannah

    The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, would make a terrible movie. I know there was a film version made several years ago, but from what I've heard it was not very good. Esther Greenwood's character is so complex, as is the narrative style, there just would be no way to capture it decently.

  • Marian

    Where the Wild Things Are
    The Cat in the Hat
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas
    Horton Hears a Who

  • Pappas

    Expiration Date-Tim Powers,
    it would be to complex of a story to try to film, you would need an unlimited budget and be ready for a story, in a story, in a story that comes together in the end.

    It would be hard to follow, nevertheless you would need to get Sam Elliot to narrate the movie in lots of places!

  • Lahari

    One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This work is much more than anything that can be captured on film. The genius of this book is in the language with which it is written. It reads beautifully and without the words, it could never capture the same essence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maureen.ruprecht Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem

    annoyed by this list -- all male writers -- really?!?

    the novel i have to add to the list has already been made into a film, but shouldn't have been...

    _Beloved: A Novel_, by Toni Morrison

  • Qaz

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy should never have been made into a movie. At least not unless they let me do it right!

    • Gregory

      I've heard there has been a stab (awful pun intended) at Franz Kafka's "In The Penal Colony", but I can't really imagine making a movie.

      It's just too intense.

  • Marcel P

    "The Alexandria Quartet" by Lawrence Durrell

  • Tris

    Point of interest: There was actually a film of Finnegans Wake made by experimental film maker Mary Ellen Bute, circa 1967.

  • Doug

    On the other hand I though William Burroughs' Naked Lunch was unfilmable but David Cronenberg did an amazing job with that.

  • mahuya ray

    Kafka & Joyce are unfilmable, at least true adaptation not possible.............only Dubliners can be tried....

  • John

    Notes From Underground by Dostoevsky. The first half is especially unfilmable. The second, not so much, though to get the character's internal monologue you would need constant narration.

  • Mariano Fernandez

    Buñuel said that you could do good films only with bad books.

  • Amber

    With a bit of creativity and consideration of the medium you could probably do quite a good film adaptation of HoL, and those opening credits were great, I wish there'd been something after them :)
    I don't know if I could stand another narrated stream of consciousness screen adaptation, even audiobooks would drive me mad... but I don't think it's always impossible to translate into film, particularly where it's only occasionally used in the text.
    As far as Lovecraft goes, the alien geometries and indescribable horrors would probably not have the same effect if we could actually see them, and if they're made in cgi the temptation would be to make it very detailed and show us as much as possible, when surely it could never be as frightening or interesting as what we ourselves imagined when reading the original accounts. I'd quite like to see a short film adaptation of The Rats In The Walls if I had to choose, but generally Lovecraft is unfilmable because it would drive us mad to watch it if they got it right. Though how hilarious would the critics' reaction be...

  • Jonny

    There is a film of Finnegan's Wake:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059179/

  • Philip

    Correction: In Absalom, Absalom! the character's name is Thomas Sutpen, not Stupen

  • Gley Riviery

    IMHO, A Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy never should have reached the theaters. The style of Douglas Adams, shifting the perspective to provoke smiles, don't translate well on movies, because many times he creates an expectative based on hiding descriptions which, revealed later, shows a nonsense situation.

  • T.C. Baker

    Anything long, please don't have Oliver Stone do it. Only time I ever left a movie that should have been epic.

    • Bill C.

      His TV series,The Untold History of the USA is, however, excellent.

  • Matt Melia

    How about Samuel Beckett's trilogy, Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable.

  • http://myheadspace-db.blogspot.com/ Daniel Beringer

    House of Leaves could be done in two movies - The one Zampano saw, and one based on Johnny Truant. The buildup and marketing is already in the book. Release the first short a year and a half before the films. Don't credit it, just push it out anonymously. Do the same with the second short, about a year before the actual film release. Then, you put the Zampano film in a bunch of art houses. After that, you release the main theatrical movie about Johnny Truant. This would be the 'main' movie, out in all major theaters. For anyone who hasn't read the book or seen the Zampano film, the movie would be a tense psychological thriller as the main character battles against the insanity building within him. For those in the know, they would realize that it's not the insanity that already existed within that Johnny fights, but the dark horror that was awakened (implanted?) within him by the Zampano film.

    I don't think it would be possible to accurately portray House of Leaves as anything other than two separate movies. Any single movie would have to chop too much stuff out, or would be horribly long and confusing, but not in the good way.

    • David B

      Oddly enough, I was about to post this exact same thing. Maybe not the exact words, but, yeah, as two movies (although I was thinking simultaneous release), I think it could be done.

  • Virginia Downs

    Little, Big by John Crowley would be hard to film adequately because of the minimal plot and beautiful language. (It's also the first book I know of that described a house as bigger on the inside than on the outside, which is what made me think of it.)

    Anyone who loves a book would probably feel that a film missed some beautiful feature of it.

  • http://giantsgiantsgiants.blogspot.com malbuff

    "Pale Fire" . Good luck with that one. Circular like "Finnegans Wake," but more fun to read.

    "Sometimes a Great Notion." Yeah, I know, they tried, but despite a good cast they only scratched the surface. Let's not do that again real soon.

    "Cat's Cradle". I have a one-man boycott ready on a moment's notice.

    However, I'd love to see a movie version of "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch," if anyone out there has the stones to attempt it.

    • Bill C.

      Pale Fire is a jaw-droppingly brilliant book that is just too clever for the general public, and as such, too clever for it's own good ... can you imagine how crap an attempt to film it would be? ... talk about layers !

    • Bill C.

      Pale Fire is a jaw-droppingly brilliant book that is just too clever for the general public, and as such, too clever for it's own good ... can you imagine how crap an attempt to film it would be? ... talk about layers !

  • Jorge

    "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the perfect example of an unfilmable book.

  • http://arjunbasu.com Arjun Basu

    It's really too bad Cronenberg did Cosmopolis. I'm still waiting for a movie of DeLillo's White Noise. Which is unfilmable but not because of the plot but because of the tone. After Cosmopolis, I don't know if anyone will touch DeLillo again.

  • Michael Walter

    The Witching Hour by Anne Rice.

  • Jose

    The Waves, by Virginia Woolf. I don't think there's a script that would resume the grandeur of the universe created from within the characters. No film can show suitable images.

  • Anetor

    Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein for sure can never be made into a movie. Damn too long. It's definately time NOT enough for movie.

  • http://www.amazon.com/shops/summanullabooks Edwin Thomasson

    'The decline and fall of the Roman Empire' Gibbon
    if only it could be done. On a simular note:
    "The Foundation Series"Asimov
    "Paradise Lost" Milton
    "The Prophetic Works of William Blake"
    "One Thousand and One Arabian Nights"
    anything by the French Existentialists

  • Lenka Iqus

    This is a very interesting list and I also agree with most of the works mentioned in the comments. What I would like to add is Tolkien's "Silmarillion". I do love the movie version of "The Lord of the rings", yes, but I simply cannot imagine ANYONE trying to make "Silmarillion" into a movie without failing utterly. The story is too extensive and deep. The movie would have to be animated or so and I really doubt it would work.

  • Rafay Mahmood

    Anna Karanina.......how many times will you attempt to translate 1000 pages of literature to three hundred pages of screenplay.Certainly, not possible.

  • Neal B.

    The Great Gatsby - the 1926 film version, now lost, might have been interesting. The other two showed how difficult it is to capture the essence of Fitzgerald's masterpiece. And isn't someone trying again?

  • Suzanne

    2001: A Space Odyssey. 'Nuff said.

  • Akshay

    Most Magic Realism. Wait, all of it.

  • m

    the old man & the sea

    this would one of the most boring movies of all time.

    • Antonio

      They made a movie about it which was exactly like the book. The script was identical since the book is short. You are right though M, it was the cure for insomnia. Very boring...

  • http://none jmd

    Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.Buckets of gore,dismembered heads arms and legs, bouquet of dead babies hanging in a tree... Although this is supposedly going to be filmed, how do you maintain the literary allegorical nature of the book, all people will remember is the violence. The Wild Bunch to the power of 10.

  • Gary

    Need I bring up the disaster that was an attempt at turning American Psycho into a movie?

  • Jess

    Although HoL would be extremely difficult to film, perhaps someone could film "The Navidson Record." That first film could end with Johnny Truant finding the transcript, and the second film would be Johnny's story, and his reaction to TNR.

  • Jake

    "the biggest one being that the success of the film would rest on the shoulders of actors between the ages of six and ten"

    So they just did what the Sci-Fi channel did with "Children of Dune": double the age of the primary actors, and completely change the story.

    For that matter, maybe Herbert's "Dune" saga should also be on this list, even though Lynch did it.

  • zoom

    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

    The talent and budget required for this film to work is almost impossible, i don't think anybody would ever be able to adapt the trilogy into 3 films, The Lord of the Rings can never be filmed.

    Oh and the Life of Pi, that book is way too comples, i'm sure Hollywood would get that book wrong too.

  • Arcendus

    I'm surprised to not see Atlas Shrugged on this list.

  • Chris V.

    I can hardly believe Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, did not make this list. I say that because several prominent directors including Ridley Scott, Michael Haneke, and Todd Fields have all tried developing it to no avail. That is impressive.

  • John G. Nelson

    I look forward to the Finnegans Wake by Hallmark and Infinite Jest by ESPN. Right?

    • John G. Nelson

      Ok

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