When I heard that Pete Dexter’s novel The Paperboy was being made into a movie, I grabbed the novel for a preparatory rereading. It was as trashy and elegant as I recalled. Beautiful prose details murderous rednecks, crass southern belles, cowering schoolboys, and self-destructive journalists.

Then I saw the movie reviews: largely awful. WIth Nicole Kidman and Matt McConaughey, and with a story made for the big screen, it should have been an easy conversion. Most of the book could be taken word for word. How they screwed it up I can’t imagine, and I may never know. I missed the film during the week and a half it lasted in theaters, and I may never convince myself to watch it on video. I’m afraid it might ruin my memory of the book.

It reminds me of The Bonfire of the Vanities, another great book that should have made a great movie, but apparently didn’t. Once I heard Tom Hanks had been miscast in the lead, I refused to see it.

Why can’t Hollywood figure out how to translate great books onto celluloid?