Whenever a novel is adapted for the big screen, the inevitable question is always asked: how did the movie compare to the book? Those who know the source material are happy to discuss the differences between Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Stephen King’s novel, and most of us just have to take their word for it. While it sometimes inspires us to pick up the “original”, most often we stick with what we know.
For those looking for an extra primer on the book vs. film debate, and an additional source of inspiration to get reading, Kristen Lopez’s But Have You Read the Book? 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films may be just the book you are looking for.
Read more about the new book and Lopez’s opinions on some of the combinations that intrigued her in this exclusive interview.
What was the genesis of But Have You Read the Book?
Kristen Lopez: I had a former coworker who had written a book previously for TCM and I was interested in finding out how that process worked. He put me in touch with TCM’s publishing head, the great John Malahy and we had a long discussion about topics I was interested in….none of which were this book. A few weeks later TCM publishing reached out and said, “We’re working on a book about adaptations and we noticed you have a Masters in English. Do you read a lot?” I had to laugh because, yes, I do. But when they said adaptations I immediately got excited because even before this I had a tendency to always read the book first when I discovered a movie was being made because I am impatient and can’t wait for the movie to actually come out, so reading the book, I feel gives me an inside peek. So it was a perfect union of author and an idea that TCM already had.
Where did you start compiling the entries and were there some that were difficult to cut from the list?
Lopez: TCM and I went back and forth on the books that would be included. I had a lot of ideas; they knew they wanted to include Dune. We had to make sure the books were accessible for people to find and that they were full books (several entries I cut early on were short stories, anthologies and novellas). It was definitely difficult to make any cuts because I loved so many books.
Which book did you feel was most different from the film adaptation? Which one was most similar?
Lopez: The one that diverges the most from the movie is probably Peter Benchley’s Jaws. It was a best-seller when it was released but Spielberg’s movie has just blown it out of the water. It’s incredibly different, focused less on the shark and more the economy of Amity. There’s mafiosos and an affair between Hooper and Chief Brody’s wife. It’s easy to see why readers today don’t care for it. The one that’s the most similar is No Country for Old Men. The Coen brothers translated the book almost verbatim, but what’s fascinating is how the same scene on the screen reads differently on the page.
You mention in the introduction of the book that you were the type of person who would run out and read the book before seeing the movie. Which film was the biggest surprise to you after having read the novel?
Lopez: For me it was reading Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. I had grown up loving the Matt Damon movie but had never read the book. I was surprised that the queer text of the movie was actually added by the director Anthony Minghella. Highsmith never makes a definitive declaration of Tom Ripley’s sexuality and, if anything, the book is more an indictment of class.
Is there a film that you prefer to the original source material?
Lopez: If we’re talking ones I included in the book it’d be Goodfellas. The movie is just fantastic. If we’re talking stuff I didn’t include in the book then it’s the 2011 version of Anna Karenina, it’s beautiful and it’s easier to deal with than reading Russian literature.
Which book and film do you feel would make the most satisfying combination if one were to watch and read both?
Always Jurassic Park; You can read both and feel you’ve had a fantastic time either way.
But Have You Read the Book? 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films is now available from where ever books are sold.