As your newsfeeds and Digg accounts can attest, the end of the year is a time for Best-Of lists, a time that extends the spirit of Thanksgiving, as we take a moment to appreciate the (over)abundance of media we’ve consumed these past 12 months.
This year, in addition to our list of the Top 10 Films of 2013, we wanted to express our reflections with an eye towards the future. Combining an equal love of books and film, the below group of four books and one essay published in 2013 are those we believe would make for noteworthy – creatively interesting, or popular – films in the years ahead.
Here are our bids for the best would-be movie adaptations of 2013:
D.T. Max: Every Love Story is A Ghost Story: The first biography of David Foster Wallace (or DFW, to the late author’s dedicated base of fans, many, many of whom can be found in Brooklyn) chronicles the troubled writer’s struggle with the depression that would ultimately overwhelm him. DFW’s magnum opus Infinite Jest, as well as his collection of essays Remember the Lobster, remain popular as ever, if not more so, as (and as is generally the case with modern mythologizing) the further we get from Wallace’s ’97 suicide, the more closely he becomes associated with the cult of artistic genius arrested, in the vein of Kurt Cobain or James Dean.
It’s important to note, however, we weren’t the first ones to think a DFW film would tap the zeitgeist: There’s already a movie about the author in development, an adaptation of the book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. An account of the five days writer David Lipsky spent accompanying Wallace on his book tour for Infinite Jest, Yourself has Jason Segel playing DFW. We believe Ghost Story would lend itself to a more straightforward character study, perhaps narrowing in on that section of Wallace’s life when he was working on rather than promoting Infinite Jest, arguably his most popular work. There are certainly many ways to approach or rather represent a man who’s been alternately canonized (“gentle,” “kind,” “wise”) and vilified (“pompous,” “grandstanding” “a jerk”), but we believe one of the more rewarding approaches would involve mining Ghost Story’s extensive – in the sense of author Max’s access to personal letters and the like – insight to produce a film that makes conveying Wallace’s paradoxes its primary focus.
In other words, this would be the “thinker” or art-house DFW film.
Cheryl Sandberg: Lean In
This nonfiction book written by the former Chief Operating Officer for Facebook sparked a feminist controversy when it first hit shelves earlier this year. A sort of guidebook for the gentler sex in the workplace (if you want to succeed, don’t act like the gentler sex), Lean In outlines those steps women should take as well deconstructs those myths Sandberg thinks they shouldn’t believe.
In terms of how this non-narrative book could lend itself to a film adaptation, we were thinking something along the lines of the 2012 movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting, which used the popular mommy-to-be handbook as a jumping off point for a fictional story. A film about a young woman who receives a promotion at a tech company (tech tends to be a male-dominated industry) and then has to contend with the modern issues Sandberg raises would be both timely and trendy. Let’s give Isla Fisher a part that puts her comedic skills and everywoman likability to good use – and gives her more of an edge than the confectionary Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Alice McDermott: Someone
Someone is just what its title suggests: In its portrayal of one “unremarkable” woman’s life, from childhood through old age, the story is both generic and, as this is a particular human life, inimitable. This film would be another art-house offering, as there’s no easily taglined plot to the story – the action is driven more by time than, well, action. But if cast correctly, including three great actresses, a girl, a woman, and an older woman, to play protagonist Marie at various points in her life, the cinematic version of Someone could bring a heightened immediacy to the novel’s theme of human universality. It would also pose a creative challenge to translate the author’s lovely prose into visual equivalents.
As NPR points out in their review, Marie “doesn’t undergo any kind of dramatic transformation,” which is something of a narrative no-no in both modern books and movies. But we happen to think a realistic portrayal of a real character would be simply really great.
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
Slightly more high-concept than Someone, The Goldfinch was rated by the NYT Book Review as one of the best books of the year. An orphan steals a painting from the museum he was forced to hide in during a terrorist attack. Then he tries to keep out of foster care and away from “the man” by staying with a friend. Then his father finds him and takes him to Vegas. Then he becomes involved with the underworld art set and ends up in Europe. A lot of other things happen too, meaning there’s plenty of action and memorable characters to make Goldfinch a broadly appealing bid at the box office.
Galya Diment: Two Lolitas (Vulture essay)
The Oscar-bait. Dorothy Parker may or may not have seen an early copy of Nabokov’s Lolita prior to its publication, but she certainly wrote an eerily similar short story that appeared in the The New Yorker. Famous wit Parker contending with her fading star, and ascendant Nabokov trying to find a home for his rebel Lolita, are two juicy parts. This is the film Laura Linney and Bill Murray should have made instead of Hyde Park on Hudson.