Should you head to the multiplex or just hit the books?
THE NIGHT LISTENER
Armistead Maupin (paperback)
Maupin co-wrote the screenplay, yet little remains of his book's subtleties or his complex narrator, radio storyteller Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams). Instead, a mystery involving Noone's friendship with a dying boy he's never seen is played for cheap, unsatisfying thrills. Last Word Skip the schlocky movie for Maupin's tense, tender novel.
THE BARNUM MUSEUM
Steven Millhauser (paperback)
In The Illusionist, auteur Neil Burger fills out the story ''Eisenheim the Illusionist'' from this collection, adding a romance and beefing up Paul Giamatti's role as a corrupt inspector. Last Word Millhauser's atmospheric tale provides the tone, but Edward Norton's title magician is more brilliantly intense than the character Millhauser created.
Charles Bukowski (paperback)
Director Bent Hamer's adaptation of Bukowski's autobiographical 1975 novel (about an aspiring writer who favors hard drinks and loose women) dutifully preserves the eloquent sleaze and the hero's nihilistic wit. Last Word Matt Dillon is a compelling jack-of-no-trades, but the film's tedious pace shortchanges the fast, fun book.