In general, I like to keep my books and my movies separate. When I finish a book and clutch it to my breast in a final loving embrace, I am not fantasizing about how the characters and conflict will play out on screen, since I've already had it play out across the inside of my skull.
When it was announced that David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" would be made into a movie by the Wachowskis of "The Matrix" fame, I felt a kind of dread. I knew there was no way they weren't going to screw it up. Though the attempt seemed noble, screw it up they did. In my opinion, anyway.
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That said, there is a handful of books I would love to see interpreted for the cinema.
At the top of the list is my book, of course, because if it was, by chance, made into a critically acclaimed, box-office-busting movie, perhaps starring Bradley Cooper, I could therefore bring Mrs. Biblioracle to the Oscars, which would go a long way in my lifetime campaign to impress her. I'd just have to make sure to keep her away from Cooper, or we probably wouldn't be going home together.
Not that I'd blame her.
If that fantasy can't come true, then the book I'd most like to see turned into a movie is "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn, first published in 1989.
"Geek Love" is narrated by Olympia "Oly" Binewski, a "hunchback, albino dwarf," and a former member of the traveling carnival run by Oly's parents, Aloysius "Al" and "Crystal" Lil Binewski. Oly and her siblings/fellow carnival attractions — Arturo, a boy with flippers; Siamese twins Elly and Iphy; and Chick, the youngest, who possesses the power of telekinesis — were deliberately formed by exposing Crystal Lil to radioactive isotopes as her offspring were gestating.
It gets stranger.
A little Googling tells me that the novel was first optioned for the screen by the actor Harry Anderson of "Night Court" fame. At some subsequent point, the rights passed to director Tim Burton, but from there, the trail goes cold.
There are some challenges in bringing the novel to the screen, starting with the casting, though advances in computer animation perhaps solve this problem.
More problematic is the structure. Oly Binewski is telling two stories, the past and the present. The past concerns the Binewski carnival and focuses on her brother Arty developing a cult where he induces his followers to progressively amputate more and more of their bodies as they move up the ladder of Peace, Isolation, Purity.
In the present, Oly is watching over her teenage daughter, Miranda, whom Oly gave away to be raised by nuns. Miranda has fallen under the influence of a woman who wants Miranda to remove the part of her that's "special."
Perhaps the hardest part of making a "Geek Love" film would be capturing the novel's spirit. Reading my own description, the novel sounds like a grotesque "freak show," something to be gawked at, but the novel is funny, moving and complicated — as well as disturbing and shocking. Dunn hasn't published a novel since "Geek Love" (though one has been long rumored), and even if she doesn't, she has carved some permanent place for herself in my reading world.
In an interview, Dunn described the book-to-movie process as "trying to cut a man's coat from a child's cloth," which perhaps suggests we should leave well enough alone.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations:
1. "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn
2. "In One Person" by John Irving
3. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
4. "Back to Blood" by Tom Wolfe
5. "This Is How You Lose Her" by Junot Díaz
— Alan W., Tucson, Ariz.
I had a reflexive reaction to this list: that Alan is locked into major publishers and big newsmakers, and that this is maybe a shame because the universe of books is so much broader than that. Then I realized that I'd read four of the five books myself, and "Back to Blood" is sitting on my shelf. So, for me and Alan and the littler guys out there, I'm going off the beaten path: "The Constellations" by Kevin Cunningham from Northern Illinois University's Switchgrass Press.
1. "Reply to a Letter from Helga" by Bergsveinn Birgisson
2. "The Child's Child" by Ruth Rendell (Barbara Vine)
3. "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright
4. "I'm Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen" by Sylvie Simmons
5. "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver
— Diana O., Kankakee, Ill.
Diana called her list eclectic, and to that I say, "Boy, howdy!" Michael Ruhlman is now known primarily as a food writer, but one of his earlier books, "Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children's Lives," tells the story of the pediatric heart center at the Cleveland Clinic. It is riveting narrative nonfiction.
1. "The Darling" by Russell Banks
2. "Raylan" by Elmore Leonard
3. "The Death of Sweet Mister" by Daniel Woodrell
4. "Lawless" by Matt Bondurant
5. "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Shaara
— Dean S., Elmwood Park
I'm confident that Dean is going to enjoy the grit and the beauty of Ron Rash's "The World Made Straight."
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