October 7, 2006


Last year a film production company contacted us and asked what books we thought should be made into movies that hadn't yet been. At the top of our list, as always, was the too-little-known classic, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc. : J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover. If Mr. Coover didn't lose control of his narrative in the latter portion of the book, it would be the great American novel--the perfect blend of baseball and the story of the Fall. A good screenplay could remedy that weakness.

We'll give a book to the best alternative recommendation, a copy of Jeremy Blachman's very funny Anonymous Lawyer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2006 12:00 AM

I also loved the Coover book, although to tell the truth I had not considered it movie material until reading this. The director of any "Universal Baseball Association" movie will have to externalize a great deal of the internal narrative to make it work, but that's not such a hard job, really, since it's mostly a bunch of baseball games and bar scenes.

At that rate, why not "The Glory of Their Times," by Lawrence S. Ritter? The director would have to be very careful about knitting so many disparate narratives into a single film, but given the common threads that link them all it could be extremely effective in the right hands.

Posted by: M. at October 5, 2006 10:07 AM

I've been looking for some time for a movie version of Goethe's Faust. There's very witty, fast paced discourse. The ending for Part I alone could so impress one with today's cinematic special effects. All the slumbering spirits of nature rise to ascend the mountain on Walpurgis' night, the antipode of our more familliar Haloween. And the finale could conclude with the devilish female spirit who dances with Faust, turning back her head in ecstatic laughter as a red mouse crawls out of her mouth!

If done well, then there's always Faust Part II to consider. A 90 minute movie could never do justice to such a complex epic as this part, but Part I has the potential to be a smashing hit.

Posted by: afhebert at October 5, 2006 10:26 AM

Master and Marguerita. With todays special effects? Wow.

Posted by: Pepys at October 5, 2006 10:50 AM

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch.

It is long past time for a movie to be made that equals Schindler's List in pressing the horror of the Gulag onto the modern consciousness.

Posted by: Pontius at October 5, 2006 11:00 AM


You'd actually just make the players real and have the games go on. It could be perfect.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2006 11:15 AM

There are a number of Russian productions of Master and Margarita, including a recent (and much acclaimed) Russian TV miniseries (check imdb for details).

I vote for "Manhunt: The 12-day Chase for Lincoln's Killer." Who would play Booth?

Posted by: ted welter at October 5, 2006 11:21 AM

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game -- one of SF's greatest "flip" endings
C.J. Cherryh, Forty Thousand in Gehenna -- there's a major plot twist every seventy pages or so, and at the end it all makes perfect sense
Sean Naylor, Not a Good Day to Die -- the story of Operation Anaconda in 2001
Jonathan Parshall & Anthony Tully, Shattered Sword: the Untold Story of the Battle of Midway -- Midway is one of the epic sea battles of all time, a classic tale of heroism and ingenuity, and pride going before the fall, and the only film depiction of it that anyone's ever seen is the lame, historically inaccurate, low-budget stock footage extravaganza Midway, which sucks like a bilge pump.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 5, 2006 11:31 AM

Another book that could be turned into an interesting film would be "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel" by Susanna Clark. They would have to do some serious editing to turn it in at under 3 hours, but then again, I thought the book could have used some paring down.

If you haven't read it, "Strange and Norrel" is mixture of fantasy and historical fiction set in England during the Napoleanic wars. Mr. Norrel (and later, Mr. Strange) have successfully revived the *practice of "English magic," which over 300 years has faded to dusty theory since its heyday in the Renaissance.

Posted by: ted welter at October 5, 2006 11:35 AM


Have you seen the trailer for The Prestige, a not too duissimilar book that has just been filmed.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2006 11:43 AM

No, I haven't even heard of the The Prestige, but I will be checking it out as soon as I get home (no streaming video allowed here at work).

Posted by: ted welter at October 5, 2006 11:47 AM

The Odyssey. Someone in Hollywood should tackle it like Peter Jackson did with LOTR.

And please don't put Brad Pitt in it. Additionally, they have to include the gods in the film.

Posted by: pchuck at October 5, 2006 11:48 AM

Hmmm. I just checked out the Amazon page on The Prestige; somebody compared Priestly to Robertson Davies, which reminds me of another book I would like to see on film: The Deptford Trilogy, in particular, World of Wonders.

I thought the NBC TV miniseries of the Odyssey starring Armande Assante was pretty entertaining.

Posted by: ted welter at October 5, 2006 11:56 AM

Mike Morley's point can be generalized: there are a lot of WWII stories that need to be done right. Even before Midway, I'd put the story of Taffy 3 in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (the book is "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" by James D. Hornfischer).

It's made for Hollywood. The biggest battle in naval history comes down to the "Small Boys," six destroyers and destroyer escorts, against a fleet built around two Yamato-class superbattleships, explicitly designed as US Navy-killers. The captain of one of the destroyers getting on the squawk box and telling his crew, "This is a battle against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected." The destroyers flinging 57 pound shells at battleships firing 3,500 pound shells. And the Japanese ADM Kurita ordering his battleships to turn around and run from the destroyers. When his subordinates questioned his decision, he pointed at the surviving destroyers, forming up for another run at the battleships, and said, "No one could be that brave!"

Would you buy a ticket to see that?

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at October 5, 2006 12:42 PM

The Odyssey was done recently. It went by the title "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Quite a nice adaptation, really.

I should have thought of Ender's Game. A studio might even go for it because of the three sequels, not to mention the prequel stories and parallel novels - good potential for a franchise.

The more I think of it, the more I think I'd definitely pay to see a "Universal Baseball Association" movie with real games.

Posted by: M. at October 5, 2006 12:43 PM

Bob, you bet we would. Two tickets sold right here. We haven't gone to the movies in months for the obvious reason. Nothing worth seeing.

Posted by: erp at October 5, 2006 1:04 PM

Supposedly, Ender's Game (the film) is "in production." Wolfgang Peterson (Das Boot) is supposed to be the director.

Posted by: ted welter at October 5, 2006 1:27 PM

Fighting an implacable foe bent on destroying civilization -- doesn't fit the current Hollywood template.

Posted by: Gideon at October 5, 2006 1:55 PM

I'd like to see Power Broker made into a movie. The book had me up until the wee small hours of the morning becuase I just had to find out if *somebody* would destroy him.

Posted by: Bryan at October 5, 2006 2:11 PM

A great director could turn a scene of Moses drawing a line through a map of neighborhoods into a powerful icon for the tragedy of liberalism. Start with views of the streets and the people and then intercut the marker sliding along the page with the buildings being pulled down.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2006 2:20 PM

Bob: I've not read the book et, but yes, Taffy 3 would make for an epic.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 5, 2006 10:56 PM

I'd suggest a different book by Orsen Scott Card--"The Worthing Saga." Doable without special effects, and a great ending as well.

Posted by: Matt Thullen at October 6, 2006 4:11 PM