Recently I’ve taken to reading novels that I know are about to be turned into films. Hence I’ve read The Black Dahlia, The Prestige, and have just started Atonement. Why? Are the books always better than the film?
It depends on the type of book. A Hollywood maxim has it that bad books make the best films, and it seems to be true that it’s easier to make a good movie out of a bad book (i.e. Jaws) than to make a classic film from classic literature. Probably because part of what makes them classics are qualities which are inherent to their medium – they’re “literary” or “cinematic”.
Similarly, the best films are usually originals, rather than adaptations, and novelisations of movies rarely set the literary world alight. I actually went through a phase of reading novelisations, but my excuse was that I was reading things like “Aliens”, “Predator” and “Robocop”, which I was too young to see at the cinema at the time.
You also need to bear movie adaptations in mind when you decide to purchase a book. I mean, if you’re going to buy Pride and Prejudice, do you really want Keira Knightley on the cover? As a friend of mine with a similar outlook noted, it makes it look as though you weren’t aware of the book until a big movie adaptation brought it to your attention.
A propos, a collection of short stories (which also gave name to this post) subsequently adapted into classic movies (The Birds, High Noon, The Fly, 2001, etc.) can be found here.