Adaptation Adaptation Adaptation

According to USA Today, the onslaught of movie adaptations is seriously boosting book sales. Well, this isn’t exactly new. We’ve seen it a million times before, especially with YA literature (hello Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter, Divergent etc).

But we’ve also seen some absolute disasters in the cinema that would be enough to put you off the most perfectly poised classic.


For example, the 2010 remake of Gulliver’s Travels produced by Robert Letterman replaces Jonathan Swift’s famously misanthropic narrator with the famously light-hearted Jack Black. In adapting a novel that satirises human nature and was written as an attack on the travel-writing genre, Letterman is perhaps using layers of irony to make an artistic statement about modern audiences. Sadly, in the retelling, Letterman undoubtedly comes off a Yahoo.

But not all is lost! Of course there are plenty of good adaptations out there, and we are getting very excited about some upcoming ones that we think will a) be great and b) definitely boost some book sales…

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, with its 20-million-dollar budget, promises to be a thoughtful take on the YA book, which won both the Kate Greenaway medal and the Carnegie Prize. The illustrated novel follows thirteen-year-old Conor’s attempt to make sense of his mother’s terminal illness. We can’t wait to see (or, rather, hear) Liam Neeson move away from action and give voice to the monster. Director Juan Bayona boasts an eclectic portfolio and we are looking forward to seeing where his adaptation will take us. This film will also be featured as a part of the BFI London Film Festival.


Classic feminist literature isn’t synonymous with small-town Texas, but Amazon’s pilot season of I Love Dick has taken readers back to Marfa, TX. I Love Dick, which blends theory and fiction, was published nineteen years ago; we are surprised nobody has attempted to serialise the cult novel before. Director Jill Soloway, who brought us the high drama of Grey’s Anatomy, has taken on the challenge. But will the show equal Chris Kraus’ acclaimed work?

The adaptation of Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test is being released later this year. If you’ve already read the book and are as impatient as us to see how director Jay Roach turns this piece of journalism into a feature-length film, we recommend Ronson’s TED talk to tide you over. Ronson’s previous book adapted for the cinema, the novel Men Who Stare at Goats, garnered mixed reviews, despite its all-star cast. The book itself was also divisive in terms of its critics and fans. Don’t let that put you off, though – enjoy listening to Ronson’s stories in the archives of the This American Life podcast.

Compared to literature, film and television can be said to be in their infancy. So perhaps we can forgive a few mangled classics, especially with the promise of exciting new films. What would you like to see adapted for the big screen? Give us a tweet @thepigeonholehq


One thought on “Adaptation Adaptation Adaptation”

  1. Here’s a book I was nearly put off because of a horrible adaptation: Angel, by Elizabeth Taylor. No, not that Elizabeth Taylor, though I bet you’ll remember her name now you’ve done that double-take.
    The film looked like it would be good – a stellar cast of Romola Garai, Charlotte Rampling and Sam Neill. A story with plenty of mischief – it’s about a romantic novelist who achieves vast fame and fortune on little talent. Irresistible fodder, especially as I’m an author. Strangely, the director seemed to misunderstand all the delicious irony and the finely observed characters. You could tell, somehow, that the actors had seen a lot more in it than he had. So I went to the novel, determined to discover it anew for myself. Reader, I now recommend it everywhere.
    If you want to hear more, I recorded a radio show all about it. I made my bookseller friend watch the video and read the book, and we had a darn good chinwag on air. Since you were kind enough to request a website in my details, I’ve put a direct link to the episode on Mixcloud.

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