Unfilmed Novels

That’s a Jeopardy! category a few days ago in the Double Jeopardy round. Here are the five questions, or answers, rather. Five novels that have not been adapted to screen. For purists, their stance would be Leave Them Unfilmed. But just for interests sake, let’s see which novels Jeopardy! has included:

Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J. D. Salinger

Rumor has it that Salinger didn’t like movies. “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies.” But no, Salinger didn’t say that, it’s Holden Caulfield who said that. In a letter Salinger had written, he denied that stance.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000) by Michael Chabon

Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys was turned into a movie, but his Pulitzer winning The Amazing Adventures has not.

Foucault’s Pendulum (1988) by Umberto Eco

It’s been reported that the Italian philosopher/writer Umberto Eco wasn’t pleased with the movie adaptation of his earlier novel The Name of the Rose, so he said no more even though Stanley Kubrick had shown interest to work on Foucault’s Pendulum.

Blood Meridian (1985) by Cormac McCarthy

Many have attempted but to no avail, including Tommy Lee Jones, James Franco, Ridley Scott, and even Michael Haneke. It’s been noted that BM is more violent than No Country for Old Men. Do we need another one now, in our state of global chaos?

A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) by John Kennedy Toole

Although Hollywood had shown interest, even actors had been attached, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel remains unfilmed. Those of you who have read it, can you suggest some reasons why this is so.


A Note to Jeopardy Question Writers: Can’t you think of at least one novel from a woman author, just for the balance of your questions, let alone representation?

To my Ripple Readers: Can you suggest some good titles that have yet been turned into film? Old classic or current? Any books that you’d like to see transported to the big screen, in the helm of a worthy director with a talented cast and crew to bring out a deserving production?

Here are a few I can think of, some may have TV versions, but a full length, cinematic feature on the big screen is yet to be done:

Middlemarch by George Eliot (An old attempt years ago, but nothing realized. Now, let’s have Greta Gerwig write and direct. After Little Women, she just might have a fresh take on this classic.)

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

Lila / Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri



Your two pebbles?




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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

27 thoughts on “Unfilmed Novels”

  1. I would love to see a movie of The Moviegoer but it would be so meta that it would take a very talented director. There would be lots of interesting ways to do it–I’d like to see it begin and end with street scenes from all over the U.S., to give watchers the sense that their lives might be ratified by the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, not many directors can take on a challenge like this, existential search for meaning. Terrence Malick will be a likely choice but he has to make this contemporary, not too too serious and keep the nuanced humor, and update the language as well.


  2. Ohhh, I love this.

    So sad about Foucault’s Pendulum, book that I read and enjoyed at the time, -even though it gets complicated-. I think his Name of the Rose adaptation is fabulous. It’s not as rich as the book, but we all know books and movies are different media.

    No Country… is one of my favorite movies. I’d have no problem with Blood Meridian on film. I know we live tough times, but McCarthy is more than just violence.

    I don’t know why A Confederacy has not been adapted. It’ll be a great movie in the right hands. As long as the humor is able to be reflected.

    I have not read Beware of Pity, but all of your other suggestions, they’d be awesome. (I’m going to read The Moviegoer soon), I’ve read the other books, -not Lila but Gilead-, and I’d love to see those in movies. Lahiri’s stories will make great TV episodes.

    I’m bad to come up with any other titles, women or men, 🙂 Sorry. If I think of any, I’ll come back.


    1. McCarthy is more than just violence… that’s true. You’re right that Lahiri’s stories will make good TV miniseries or something like that. Have you seen her Namesake? I think that’s well done. But I think her short stories are more intense and poignant. As for Zweig’s Beware of Pity, it’s very good and would have made an interesting period movie.


  3. I would have bombed that category. Catcher in the Rye is the only one I know and I probably wouldn’t have known by the clue. Your other question is tougher. I’d love to see “People of the Book” or “Broken for You” filmed. Lots of my fave mystery people but they’d probably be best as TV minis instead. I hope someone options “The Dutch House.” And “The Nightingale.” I suspect Hollywood would ruin it but I love “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.”


    1. Those five are the books the questions were on, here’s the link to the actual question board with all the questions (I never knew they have a Jeopardy Archive online detailing every game!) You must check these questions out in the ‘Unfilmed Novel’ category. And like you, I would have bombed too, haha! But they sure make good reading suggestions. And, I’d like to see “The Dutch House” on screen too. They’d have to do some careful set / production design.


    1. Stefanie,

      As a waiter would have said in an upscale restaurant, I’d like to say: “Excellent choice, Madam.” But I’m afraid I’m not familiar with these books. Just Googled them and found what a special historical setting and geopolitical backdrop the trilogy is set in. Interesting choice. I thought you’d suggest some science fiction. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It would be really cool to see NK Jemison’s Fifth Season, or something by Octavia Butler, maybe Parable of the Sower. But I love those books so much I am terrified the movies would not turn out well unless placed in the right hands and with Hollywood racism and sexism, I don’t have much faith.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cool. Thanks for the recommendations. Have you heard of Ted Chiang? He’s a Chinese-American award winning sci-fi writer whose very thoughtful “Story of Your Life” was turned into the movie “Arrival” (2016, Amy Adams). His short stories collection Exhalation was one of NYT Ten Best Books of the Year (2019). I hope more of his stories will be adapted into film.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Yes, I have heard of Ted Chiang but I have not read him. As much as I have tried, I am not a fan of short stories even when favorite novelists like Margaret Atwood writes them. I have seen Arrival and really enjoyed that movie 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Let me see…how about these two authors:
    Mary Doria Russell, (yes she was named after the Andrea Doria Steamliner), is a historic fiction writer with advanced degrees in anthropology. To name a few of her books that would make great movies: “The Sparrow” — will keep the reader on the edge of her seat about space travel gone very wrong, “Doc” — about the Wild West and the notorious Doc Holiday, “Epitaph” — about the men involved in the shoot out at the OK Corral, “Dreamers of the Day” — about the Cairo Conference and the dividing of Mesopotamia, and her latest “The Women of Copper County” — about copper mines, health issues, working conditions and the women who fought for betterment.

    And how about Alan Furst’s historic spy novels (pre WWII and WWII era) many of his books even have repeat characters!
    “The Night Soldiers” “A Hero of France” “Dark star” “Spies of the Balkans” and “Blood of Victory” to name a few.


    1. Another note: I wanted to share with you an upcoming non-fiction book that is going to be made into movie coming soon from Martin Scorsese…
      My husband and I recently read David Grann’s wonderfully written and researched book “Killers of the Flower Moon” — a National Book Award finalist. I think you would be very interested in the story. It takes place in the 1920s…Osage Indians with mineral rights to their land in Oklahoma strike oil — and the death toll of the tribe rises as the mystery begins. The FBI gets involved and it is a serious account of history.


    2. Heather,

      Thanks for your suggestions of these two authors. I just checked IMDb, Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow” and “Doc” are already in development for the screen. “The Sparrow” will be adapted as a TV movie, but not sure about “Doc”. Thanks for letting us know of her other titles. Alan Furst’s works sound intriguing. His is credited to be the writer for the TV series “Spies of Warsaw”, don’t know if that’s related to the “Spies of the Balkans”. And I’ve found another title of his, the documentary “Revealing Mr. Maugham”. Now I must seek this one out cause I’m a fan of W. S. Maugham! Thanks for your input!


  5. “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset. Liv Ullmann directed a Norwegian movie of the first book (The Wreath) in the trilogy in 1995, leaving me starving for the following books, “The Wife” and “The Cross.”

    Also her tetralogy “The Master of Hestviken.” I don’t know, maybe they’d work better as a mini-series…


    1. Thanks for the info on Sigrid Undset. Ullmann sure’s an acting icon and I admire her taking up directing as well. I suppose the trilogy isn’t an easy project and Ullmann by now may not have the energy to take that up. Maybe someone else could do it. Speaking of Ullmann as director, have you seen “Miss Julie” (2014) starring Jessica Chastain? I think that’s quite classy, and a little quirky.


      1. I had seen “Miss Julie” but with my memory problems I watched it again this morning because I couldn’t remember how it ended. Very powerful. It’s hard to imagine a culture so different that people feel forced to make the choices they do. I do love quirky movies. And the cinematography was spectacular!

        Liked by 1 person

          1. The first to pop into my mind is “Maudie.” 🙂 Others I’ve actually added to my collection are, “Swept from the Sea,” “Babette’s Feast,” “Cool and Crazy,” “Olive Kitteridge,” “The Lightkeepers” and “Calvary.” There are no doubt many more…

            Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s somewhat surprising there’s never been a Willa Cather adaptation as far as I can tell.

    I’ll also nominate some Muriel Spark – The Girls Of Slender Means would work well, and I could imagine a hilarious Abbess Of Crewe adaptation (although it would probably have to be somewhat loose.

    Shirley Hazzard’s “The Transit of Venus” would make a good film.


    1. Upon checking IMDb, I found that several of Willa Cather’s novels were adapted into TV movies back in the 1990’s, including O, Pioneers!, My Antonia, and The Song of the Lark in 2001. Muriel Spark’s The Girls Of Slender Means was a TV series back in 1975. Not sure where to watch these now. Thanks for your comment!


  7. Catcher in the Rye was not filmed for the same reason that Plath’s Bell Jar was not filmed. There are much subjective experience and in-ones-head narrations on going there – that is what makes the whole book tick – how to translate that onto the screen? Impossible (unless you are David Lynch maybe – who can translate dreams). That is what makes the book The Goldfinch so good – and look how the film turned out – it was a very bad decision from the start.


    1. Thanks for your input, Diana. Transposing books onto the screen has always been an arduous task. But I really appreciate this quote from writer Kazuo Ishiguro to screenwriter of his adaptation Never Let Me Go Alex Garland: “Your only duty is to write a really good screenplay with the same title as my book.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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