Five Novels That May Be Unfilmable–and the Artists We Would Like to See Try

#2 The Crying of Lot 49

Honestly, there are any number of postmodern novels I could put here: Infinite Jest, Foucault’s Pendulum, Snow White (Barthelme), White Noise. Why not just put “Insert Postmodern Title Here”? Well, I guess in part because I don’t want to encourage the complaint that all postmodern novels are the same. They aren’t, even if the primary reason they are mostly unfilmable–anti-narrative technical experimentation–is.

Even so, if I can trust student reports, Pynchon exists on a special plane of the indecipherable.  When even your plot summary on Wikipedia hedges its bets by calling the plot “convoluted,” you may be excused from wondering if anyone really knows what the heck is going on. Those who claim to follow the novel are few. Those who might be bold to translate it to a mass audience with the attention span of a hummingbird on meth? I haven’t met one yet.

The Crying of Lot 49 is one of those novels that conflates actual history with fiction, making you question what is real and what isn’t. I think the novel is about a woman who discovers hints that there may be a secret, Illuminati-like organization, the Trystero, that is like an underground post office. I stress the “I think.” Although I’ve read The Crying of Lot 49 several times, I am still not entirely sure. And I have a Ph.D. in literature

If I had to saddle someone with this task, I guess this is the sort of material that cries out for Terry Gilliam or Richard Ayaode since I don’t really understand what is going on in their films anyway.

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