You sit down. You start something - some task, perhaps a seemingly trivial one but with many intricate complexities, or perhaps one of outright Herculean proportions. You do it. You get up. Then you have done it in one sitting. This has to be an uninterrupted state, mind you - no phone calls, no answering a knock at the door, no pee breaks. In One Sitting is not a successful strategy to winning the 3-day-novel contest. (for winning Everything?)

"In one sitting" is why the feature film could be called Edgar Allan Poe's victory over the novelists - depending somewhat on how you view the movie industry.

In Poe's view, literature worth reading should be short enough that it could be finished in one sitting. Therefore, Poe himself mainly wrote short stories - and therefore, in part, we have that dear old saying - "I'd rather wait and see the movie". Movies and short stories are one sitting-formats, a novel is normally a lot more time-consuming.

Of course, we are talking about entirely different media. It takes far less time for Chabrol to show us the hill down which Madame Bovary's carriage is driving than for Flaubert to describe it to us. But still, most novel adaptations for the screen involve a serious reduction of the number of characters and bi-plots and other sorts of simplification of the story. Don't get me wrong, they often do so successfully. But it is still surprising that we don't see more feature films based on short stories, which should, at least theoretically, be closer to the nature and the characteristics of the full-length movie - a tightened plot, normally a sensible number of characters and a limited time space etc.

However, adapting a short story is of course no guarantee against ending up with a movie that is too long. One of the most tediously long movies I saw last year, was A.I., which was based on the short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss. Started great, landed flat on its face. I found the movie at least 45 minutes too long. Whether this had anything to do with the starting point being a short story or just with Steven Spielberg's style clashing with that of Stanley Kubrick, or something completely different, is hard to tell. Personally, I have a strong suspicion Spielberg suffered from editing blindness and was unable to kill his darlings...

Anyhow, when adapting literature for the big screen, screenwriters and directors keep turning to the novel. The main reason is no mystery - they turn to successful stories, and novels, in general, sell far better than short stories. It's one of our most popular literary genres, and a bestselling novel seems to guarantee a fair amount of interest in the upcoming movie, no matter how rough-handedly the original story is treated.

So novels get adapted for the big screen in a big way, short stories don't - not to the same extent. But Poe's victory over all those (to him) verbose novelists, of course, is that all their work, all those pages, have been reduced to something to be enjoyed in one single sitting...

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