Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Novella Runs Through It

I just finished reading I Am Legend, the novella on which the Will Smith movie is loosely based. It's a brilliant (and influential) short story, especially considering it was written 55 years ago -- before the surfeit of vampire-ness in books and movies.

Not that I am Legend is a great movie, but it got me thinking about how the best adapted screenplays are often based on short stories rather than novels. I guess a full-length novel is simply too long and complex to squeeze into a two-hour movie, and it always leaves the viewer (and the reader, if he's read the book) feeling like something's missing.

Here are just a few noteworthy movies I can think of that were based on short stories or novellas: The Shawshank Redemption (Stephen King), Stand by Me (Stephen King), Brokeback Mountain (Annie Proulx), A River Runs Through It (Norman Maclean), Apocalypse Now (Joseph Conrad).

Occasionally, a full-length novel spawns a movie that is as good or better than the book. One such movie is The Silence of the Lambs. Can you think of any others?


  1. The Lord of the Rings!

  2. I think these are technically novels (I wouldn't know because I only saw the movies I admit- I promise to read your book though Brian!) The Godfather, The Color Purple, and Schindler's List- All great movies. One of my favorites (guess why...) is technically a children's novel: The Wizard of Oz.
    That counts, right?!

  3. Charlotte's Web and the Notebook. Two of my favorites...

  4. Is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil considered a novel? If so, this is one of the best examples I can think of. Is the size alone what constitutes a novel or is the content that's covered within the book?

  5. Kris,

    Yep, Midnight in the Garden... is a novel. It's basically just word count that classifies a work as a novel or novella. Novella is usually 20-50K words; a novel is anything longer than 50K.