Read the Book, Watch the MovieSix NYRB Classics
If you’ve been missing the pleasures of the movie theater, you might enjoy this collection of six novels—all of which have been adapted into feature films. Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn offers a glimpse into the dynamic, demanding culture of 1920s jazz musicians. It was made into a movie by Michael Curtiz in 1950 with Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day in the starring roles. Leonard Gardner’s Fat City, which includes an introduction by Denis Johnson, centers around a disillusioned ex-boxer and a promising young prizefighter as they struggle for success in a fifties-era California town. John Huston directed Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges in a 1972 adaptation.
Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock is a masterpiece of noir that doubles as a sharp critique of American corporatization, while Oakley Hall’s Warlock is an innovative Western beloved by Thomas Pynchon and reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s writings in the genre. Ray Milland and Charles Laughton starred in a 1948 adaptation of the former book, and Richard Widmark, Anthony Quinn, and Henry Fonda led the cast in a 1959 adaptation of the latter.
Vicki Baum’s Grand Hotel depicts a bustling Weimar-era business populated by a host of eccentric, tragic guests. Its film adaptation, which starred John Barrymore, Greta Garbo, and Joan Crawford, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1932. In Antonio di Benedetto’s Zama, a priggish civil servant fumes, lusts, and languishes in eighteenth-century Paraguay as he fruitlessly awaits a reassignment to Buenos Aires. Lauded Argentine director Lucrecia Martel adapted the novel in 2017.