No, But I Saw the Movie: The Best Short Stories Ever Made Into Film, ed. David Wheeler

Second paragraph of third story (“Blow-Up” / “Las Babas del Diablo”, by Julio Cortázar):

Puestos a contar, si se pudiera ir a beber un bock por ahí y que la máquina siguiera sola (porque escribo a máquina), sería la perfección. Y no es un modo de decir. La perfección, sí, porque aquí el agujero que hay que contar es también una máquina (de otra especie, una Contax 1.1.2) y a lo mejor puede ser que una máquina sepa más de otra máquina que yo, tú, ella – la mujer rubia – y las nubes. Pero de tonto sólo tengo la suerte, y sé que si me voy, esta Remington se quedará petrificada sobre la mesa con ese aire de doblemente quietas que tienen las cosas movibles cuando no se mueven. Entonces tengo que escribir. Uno de todos nosotros tiene que escribir, si es que todo esto va a ser contado. Mejor que sea yo que estoy muerto, que estoy menos comprometido que el resto; yo que no veo más que las nubes y puedo pensar sin distraerme, escribir sin distraerme (ahí pasa otra, con un borde gris) y acordarme sin distraerme, yo que estoy muerto (y vivo, no se trata de engañar a nadie, ya se verá cuando llegue el momento, porque de alguna manera tengo que arrancar y he empezado por esta punta, la de atrás, la del comienzo, que al fin y al cabo es la mejor de las puntas cuando se quiere contar algo).Seated ready to tell it, if one might go to drink a bock over there, and the typewriter continues by itself (because I use the machine), that would be perfection. And that’s not just a manner of speaking. Perfection, yes, because here is the aperture which must be counted also as a machine (of another sort, a Contax 1.1.2) and it is possible that one machine may know more about another machine than I, you, she – the blond – and the clouds. But I have the dumb luck to know that if I go this Remington will sit turned to stone on top of the table with the air of being twice as quiet that mobile things have when they are not moving. So, I have to write. One of us all has to write, if this is going to get told. Better that it be me who am dead, for I’m less compromised than the rest; I who see only the clouds and can think without being distracted, write without being distracted (there goes another, with a grey edge) and remember without being distracted, I who am dead (and I’m alive, I’m not trying to fool anybody, you’ll see when we get to the moment, because I have to begin some way and I’ve begun with this period, the last one back, the Blow-Up one at the beginning, which in the end is the best of the periods when you want to tell something).

An anthology of 18 short stories which were all adapted into well-known films. I remain fairly illiterate in movie lore, so I’m sorry to say that I have seen very few of the classic movies represented here; the ones I knew were “The Wisdom of Eve” by Mary Orr, source for All About Eve; “Night Bus” by Samuel Hopkins Adams, source for It Happened One Night; and “The Sentinel”, by Arthur C. Clarke, source for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I had seen two of the other films, but not previously read the original stories: Guys and Dolls, based on “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” by Damon Runyon, where I think the show is better than the original, and Psycho, which is very different from “The Real Bad Friend” by Robert Bloch to the point that I actually query the strength of the connection between them. Also, which I have not seen Stagecoach, Ernest Haycox’ story “From Stage to Lordsburg” seems to me rather derivative of Maupassant’s “Boule de Suif”.

There were several here that I liked, enough to make stronger efforts to see the films: “The Fly” by George Langelaan, “The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern which was the source for It’s A Wonderful Life, “The Day of Atonement” by Samson Raphaelson which was the source for The Jazz Singer, and “Mr Blandings Builds His Castle” by Eric Hodgins, which became Mr Blandings Builds His Castle. On the other hand I could not make head nor tail of “The Tin Star”, by John M. Cunningham, supposedly the basis for High Noon.

Long out of print but a quirky and interesting collection. You can get it here.

This was the non-genre fiction book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that pile is Bulgarian classic Under the Yoke, by Ivan Yazov.

Tales from Planet Earth, by Arthur C. Clarke

Second paragraph of intro to third story (“Publicity Campaign”):

Although the references in the story are somewhat dated, the questions it raises are certainly not. And by a curious coincidence, I’ve re-read it the very week the media are ruefully celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast. (CBS’s Mercury Theatre of the Air, 31 October, 1938.)

Second paragraph of text of “Publicity Campiagn”:

R.B. heaved himself out of his seat while his acolytes waited to see which way the cat would jump. It was then that they noticed that R.B.’s cigar had gone out. Why, that hadn’t happened even at the preview of ‘G.W.T.W.’!

Of the three great mid-century sf writers, Clarke has aged much better for me than Asimov or Heinlein. This collection, originally published in 1989, brings together some familiar friends (“‘If I Forget Thee. O Earth…'”) and some unexpected discoveries (“Wall of Darkness”) in the Clarkeian œuvre. (I checked, and they are all in the Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke which I read in 2016, but not all of them had lingered with me.) What’s also nice is to read his introductions to each story, written in 1988 when he had just turned 70. It’s old-fashioned stuff but I found it really refreshing, reading it in the middle of my Clarke Award duties for this year. You can get it here.

I also want to shout out to Michael Whelan’s art. The cover is also rather glorious – though he notes on his website that the spaceship to the top right of the primitive human’s head was added at the publisher’s insistence, rather than the egg which the artist had originally painted. Greyscale snippets from the cover photo illustrate each of the sixteen stories.

This was the top unread book that I acquired in 2021. Next on that pile is Twelve Caesars, by Mary Beard.