Which Books Should Be Movies and Which Should Be Left Alone? (Including a Letter from J.D. Salinger on Why He Didn’t Want a ‘Catcher in the Rye’ Movie)

Movie adaptations of novels can be a great addition to stories that are already well loved. But we can all name examples of films that have done a brutal job of bringing a book to life.

Despite The Catcher in the Rye being one of the most beloved books of all time, J.D. Salinger was of the opinion that it should never be made into a movie.

Next Movie has posted a letter written by J.D. Salinger explaining why…

In 1957, Salinger penned a very thoughtful letter to a producer named “Mr. Herbert” on the issue of selling the adaptation rights to “Catcher” and explained that the merit of his novel, as he saw it, was the narrator’s inner dialogue — the “novelistic”-ness of the novel, as he put it.

Salinger wrote, “the weight of the book is in the narrator’s voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it, his personal, extremely discriminating attitude to his reader-listener, his asides about gasoline rainbows in street puddles, his philosophy or way of looking at cowhide suitcases and empty toothpaste cartoons — in a word, his thoughts. He can’t legitimately be separated from his own first-person technique.” In other words, a movie would totally screw up making Holden a screw up.

We often assume stories are just stories, translatable from one medium to another. But that’s not always true. Some stories are better told through the written word. Some are better suited to being witnessed through film. And some are more suited to being told in person, looking into the eyes of the storyteller themselves as there voice reaches your ears directly.

Could a movie possibly capture and properly express Holden’s “voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it…— in a word, his thoughts” in the same way the book does?

Salinger went on to say that even if some of Holden’s inner turmoils could be translated into working dialogue, an idea which he wasn’t very comfortable with, such a film is “essentially unactable.”

“It would take someone with X to bring it off, and no very young man even if he has X quite knows what to do with it. And, I might add, I don’t think any director can tell him,” he declared.

Who could possibly play Holden? Iconic characters are notoriously difficult to take on and it’s incredibly easy to critique an actor’s portrayal of a character that we already feel we know.

Find out more here at Next Movie.

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I don’t agree with all of these, but I definitely agree with some:

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What other books do you feel should never be made into a movie? Why?

What books would you like to see made into a film? Who would you want to direct it and play the main character(s)?