I've long since quit that job and while a day doesn't go by that I don't feel overjoyed to be free, I really miss putting together lists of books with a common theme. It's a good thing, then, that I've got this here blog and can write things like "List of Thirty Novels That Take Place Over Only 24 Hours" or "Top Novels Whose Protagonists are Talking Animals". Now when you're thinking "gee, I sure am in the mood for a novel in which a character meets the devil", you can just swing on by and check out the list for "Novels in Which a Character Meets the Devil".
So, welcome to the launch of a new feature: Friday Fiction!
HBO Take Note: Forget that mess, Boardwalk Empire and Let's Talk Adaptations
Blood Meridian -- HBO has already proven, with my beloved Deadwood, that they're capable of going western, and that they're able of producing a show completely composed of truly hideous characters (I'm looking at you Sex and the City), so is it really much of a stretch that they'd be able to handle the moral ambiguous, unrepentantly violent and mind-blowingness of Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece? There's apparently a big-screen adaptation underway, which to be honest, I'm not very optimistic about since the novel itself works because, despite the extreme violence, McCarthy was able to achieve an astounding amount of nuance that I don't think could be achieved in two hours. Twelve hours, though, I think could make the difference.
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner -- Again, the whole western thing applies (really I just want my Deadwood to copulate with one of my favourite books to produce perfect offspring) but instead of trees of dead babies (spoiler alert: there is a tree slung with dead babies in Blood Meridian), we've got family drama. Just take all that stomach-turning domestic tension from Six Feet Under and apply it to this magnificent novel set in various mid-19th century mining towns about the mismatched marriage of a upper-class Eastern artist and a rough-hewed mining engineer. Perfect television, that.
A Fan's Notes -- You know all those novels about middle America male angst? Delillo? Salter? Cheever? Ford? Yates? Roth? (Seriously, what the fuck is so fucking hard about being a middle-class white dude, anywhere, ever??) And, you know all those other novels that shatter those illusions about middle-class happiness with their protagonists who refuse to toe the line and get shock therapy instead of Tupperware? SILVIA FRAKKING PLATH? Well, combine those, toss in a wickedly sharp sense of humour and you've got the woefully forgotten A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley. Television adaptation would be the tops for this because you've got the loser protagonist who is just too fucking smart but also too disillusioned to make it in the world he was born into; I'd watch it just for the dialogue.
The Jungle -- Who wouldn't want to watch a TV show about the slaughterhouse industry?? It's a period piece, there's lots of political tension, lots of characters and Sinclair's other big novel was Oil, which was adapted, brilliantly, into There Will Be Blood so we know it can be done. And, I say it should be done.
The Violent Bear it Away -- Dude, FLANNERY O'CONNOR. TV is crying out for some southern gothic! And no one, no one did southern gothic better than my girl, Flannery.
Under the Skin by Michel Faber -- Another one for those ethical eaters out there. Aliens, murders, hitchhikers -- an oogey little Scottish novel that would satisfy anyone who still longs for X-Files.
Babylon Rolling -- Often novels by people who biblically know really famous, accomplished authors get a free pass to publish shit (ahem, Yan Martel's wife (girlfriend?), Alice Kuipers and her offensively cloying novel Notes From the Refrigerator which is composed entirely of, you guessed it, notes left on the fridge between a mother and daughter. What's next, BRB: How I Feel, Twitter-style??) but here we've got the lucky woman who's married to Joseph Boyden, Amanda Boyden and her novel that is set in pre-Katrina New Orleans and centers around the trials and tribulations of a few diverse families who all live on one street. God, I love an ensemble drama! It would be so good!
Their Eyes Were Watching God -- This thin lil' novel by the incredible Zora Neale Hurston would make a great TV show just based on the scope of Janie Crawford's life. Would be amazing as a flash-back centered show or as a linear narrative. I know it's already been adapted into a movie but the amount of character development and nuance cannot possibly be done justice in just a couple hours. May I suggest the amazing Taraji P. Henson as Janie? Oh man, she would be so good!
Down to This -- I'm trying to stay away from non-fiction because, well, I think novels are more fun but this memoir by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall, would make a really good modern series. It follows him as he spends a year living in the biggest homeless shanty-town in Canada -- lots of drugs and lots redemption. Who doesn't love drugs and redemption??
Mysteries -- Knut Hamsun, another one of those authors I get all weak-kneed over (because of his work, his work! I try to ignore that he was a giant fucking fascist -- don't look it up, it will make you sad and maybe not read his novels but they're really, really, really good), was one of the first authors to use stream of conscience and internal dialogue as devises. Although, I don't know how well those would lend themselves to the screen, I think that the story of Mysteries it totally worth examining for TV -- the story of a stranger in a small town and the ways in which an interloper could challenge the social fabric of a community could make for pretty compelling TV.
The Spider's House -- Paul Bowles is amazing and aside from that everyone should read his work, his novel The Spider's House, the political and cultural tensions between American expats and North Africans would make for a kick-ass, multi-layered TV series.
Old Goriot and Dead Souls -- Full disclosure I haven't yet read either of these but I feel like I'd love to watch a show about the wild characters in a bawdy house in France and serfs in Russia, escaping Death himself.
This Book Will Save Your Life -- I picture a HBO-caliber Matthew Perry (sorry, Matthew) playing the main character in AM Homes hilarious novel of a high-powered LA player in the throes of midlife crisis in which he, gasps, discovers how to care about people. Like, if Bored to Death's George had his own show.
The Town that Forgot How to Breath -- Maybe a Walking Dead-style series, only 12 episodes about a maritime town in which all its dead come back to life but not life-life (ie, the drowned fishermen still look drowned). Creepy, yep, but in a reeeeally good way.
Alex Snider is a Toronto-based writer and the co-creator of the Once Again, To Zelda blog, which is where a version of this post originally appeared. You can read the rest of her posts here.