Top 10 literary affairs that should be filmed

We haven’t yet seen The Invisible Woman, it’s true- but just off the top of our heads, here’s ten other literary affairs we’d rather see immortalised on the silver screen. From surfing to coffin-charms to wild orgies of genius, there’s something for everyone here. Screw you, Dickens. Screw you.


#10 – Agatha Christie and Husbands One and Two

Agatha, Agatha, Agatha. Oft presumed to be the preserve of the elderly murder-lover, the life of Britain’s best-loved crimestress deserves- nay, demands- a good 120 minute of dedicated attention. Start with her writing Miss Marple in a hut by the Nile while her first husband steals bones. Go on to her learning to surf in Hawaii. Then her mysterious, post-divorce disappearance. What happened in those eleven days? Only Agatha can tell.

Anyway, Poirot’s finished now. We need more Agatha. The world needs more Agatha.


#9 – Larkin’s Sad Ladies

There is definitely room in the cinematic universe for a slow and muted exploration of Larkin’s love life. It would be one of those films where everyone is always reading out letters, and we get a lot of panoramic shots of, er, Hull. It would be a thing of beauty, and it would not even break even at the box office, and everyone at the end would be dead, or abusing themselves, drop by drop, into an old sock.


#8 – Edgar Allan Poe and Sarah Whitman

Obviously, the erstwhile fiancee of Edgar Allan Poe wore a coffin round her neck. Obviously she did. Why haven’t we talked about this before? She wrote him a Valentine’s Day poem; he took a double-dose of laudanum and went to visit her. That’s true romance. Unfortunately, the union was scuppered by Poe’s inability to stick off the booze, and put down the crumpet, and the police had to be called. Happy days, E.A.P!


#7 – Byron and some people he happened to bump into

Fun fact: if you Google “literary affairs”, it assumes you meant to search for Byron. That’s why he occupies almost a third of this list. I, and the cinema-going public, will almost certainly never tire of flop-haired fops writing great works, and knocking off a selection box of inappropriate ladies (and gents). His Wikipedia page is a scandal of secrets and shagging, just waiting to be brought into Technicolor. Leaving aside for the moment the “passions of his schooldays”, the mothers of his children, and various landladies, let’s go straight to…


#6 – Byron and Shelley and Shelley’s Future Wife and Shelley’s Future Wife’s Sister

The Villa Diodati. The shores of Lake Geneva. Rain, endless rain. A series of heartbreaking works of staggering genius. An enormous amount of illicit bonking. Shelley’s current wife is drowning herself because she is pregnant. Shelley’s future wife is writing Frankenstein. Shelley’s future wife’s sister is being led up the garden path by Byron. Shelley’s future wife’s OTHER sister is drowning herself because she wasn’t invited, and because she’s in love with Shelley. Byron’s making whoopee with everything going; Shelley’s breaking hearts left right and centre; everyone is going to drown sooner or later. This was made for TV, this was.


#5 – Byron and his sister

It may be worth remembering that Byron’s penchant for a bit of how’s your father didn’t stop with his friends, colleagues and classmates. It is in fact worth remembering also, ladies and gentlemen, that incest sells. Incest. Sells. Remember Flowers In The Attic? This is like that, but better. This is like that, but literary. This is Byron doing the dirty with his little sister, knocking her up, and being rather chuffed to discover the kid was “not an ape”.

(Interestingly, that kid then went on to elope with her brother-in-law. Apparently having a thing for a shady go on the old in-out in-out ran in the family.)


#4 – Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman

I will be eternally grateful to The Toast for bringing this to my attention. Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman and their afternoon of passion. The grizzled old wordsmith. The young dandy. Has anything ever needed a film more? No. It hasn’t. Go and read that article from the Toast, and then go and have a lie-down. “My great big beautiful boy”. Swoon.


#3 – Dorothy Parker and Hemingway

I’m just going to give you a minute to absorb this. I KNOW. I KNOW. Dorothy Parker. And Hemingway. DOING RUDES. There is not, it has to be said, a great deal of evidence for this, but the idea is too good to let go. Her last words were about him. He made fun of her suicide attempts. She made fun of…Spain. Can you imagine? The Jazz Age. The bon mots. The quips, the wits, the cattiness. The tearing off of each other’s beautiful clothes. The terrible fights. The ultimate multiple tragic endings. Sam Mendes could direct it. I’m dying just thinking about it.


#2 – PL Travers and Madge

Right. Let’s clear this up, right now. Saving Mr. Banks is a travesty; a vile travesty that would make PLT spin in her grave like Dick van Dyke’s ever-twirling rod and broom. Saving Mr. Banks is the worst thing Disney has ever done, possibly excluding that racist film that we’ve all agreed to pretend never happened. We’re still singing Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah, though, because some tunes are just too catchy to ditch, even if they do perpetuate negative and harmful stereotypes against a vast majority of the world’s population, amirite? Anyway, Disney are racist dicks, and this is the worst thing they’ve ever done apart from that. The real PL Travers – who hated Disney’s Mary Poppins – was a super-ballsy pretty mental erotica-writing maybe-lesbian, who lived for most of her life in a little cottage with a lady called Madge (who did the cooking, while she did the writing), who tried to adopt her maid, and then successfully secretly adopted one half of a pair of Irish twins. The twins ran into each other in a pub eighteen years later. They were very surprised. We want a film about that, Disney. We want a film about that.


#1 – James Joyce and Nora

Fuckbird and Jim, 2014, dir. Lars von Trier. Rated 18+. Violence, nudity, lots of farting. Not one for the faint hearted.


Which author’s philanderings would you most like to see on film? Let us know below!

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