COLUMN: Recent books to movies

BY: Karin Schimke

I have a confession to make: I have not read Anna Karenina.

I have no explanation. I haven’t avoided it, but it has somehow never crossed my path either. Every now and again someone does that sigh and dreamy-eyed look that seems to accompany or precede mention of the great Leo Tolstoy novel and I think again “I must get around to that book”. But I never have.

Finding time to read Anna Karenina has now turned into a small emergency: the film is being released in 2013 and I must see it on the big screen as I fear my small, fat third-hand television – the one I practically have to start with a hand crank and intermittently thump on the head when its anxious buzzing threatens to drown out dialogue from a DVD – will destroy the experience for me.

I am simply not prepared to go and see that particular movie without having read the book first. Judging from the various people over the years who have spoken of Anna Karenina in a way that made it clear that the book is a peak reading experience – I would be committing several kinds of wrong by opting for the shortcut movie version above the story presented in its intended and original form of a novel.

There are quite a number of a very exciting literary works that have been or will be turned into movies in the new year. Already The Life of Pi – that truly brilliant, unusual story by Yann Martel which was published eleven years ago – is on the screen and having read it and listened to the audio book I’m chomping at the bit to experience it in one more medium.

I’ll skip The Hobbit, being (flay me for this sin) not a fan of Tolkien in any form, but I’m definitely going to see Cloud Atlas. The original book – written in 2004 – felt uninviting, positively inhospitable, to me. I know from experience that when this happens with a book that comes highly recommended by many people, it has more to do with my own emotional or intellectual development, than with the novel, but I’ve had no great urge to get back to Cloud Atlas, so the movie shortcut in this case is indicated.

What I’m really looking forward to seeing on the big screen next year are books I read a long time ago: The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, On The Road by Jack Kerouac and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

I find that now, thinking of them, I can remember only the scrappiest general summary of each book, but have retained a happy sense that they were wonderful stories, each of them.  So they bear repetition – because no-one gets sick of a good story.

  • I’d be keen to know what movies from books others have recently seen and what they thought of them. I managed to see The Life Of Pi and The Silver Linings Playbook.


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  • Jennifer Crocker on January 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm said:

    Okay confession time I have never read War & Peace. Have read AK, but haven’t seen movie. On other hand I could not get into and stay into LIfe of Pi but loved film and realised I had to go back and read the book ….

  • I haven’t read Anna Karenina either, Karin! And for exactly the same reason as you. In fact, I’m ashamed to say that there are a number of “must-read” books and classics which simply haven’t crossed my path. I really should get around to it. I didn’t realise Silver Linings Playbook is an adaptation of a book, I’d love to read the book.
    I’ve put off seeing Life of Pi, because I haven’t read the book. I picked it up many years ago, but was reading other books at the same time and never finished it.
    Often feels like there are too many books to read and not enough hours in the day…

  • KarinSchimke on January 23, 2013 at 4:03 pm said:

    Toni, I know exactly what you mean. Interestingly, I listened to Life Of Pi on audiobook with the kids during longer drives, so that’s one way of doing it. Now – in desperation to squeeze more books in – I have also bought Anna Karenina on audiobook and I listen while I knit. It is THE BEST! I get to do two lekker things in one go.

  • KarinSchimke on January 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm said:

    You know, Jen, I’m not sure you HAVE to read Life of Pi. I mean, it’s brilliant, it’s rich, it’s clever, it’s wonderous, but the movie did a really good job. It’s one of those where I’d say you don’t have to double up. I’m hoping that Cloud Atlas the movie will tick my general “Failure to Read Cloud Atlas” box.