What 10 Classic Books Were Almost Called

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Remember when your high school summer reading list included Atticus, Fiesta, and The Last Man in Europe? You will once you see what these books were renamed before they hit bookshelves.

1. THE GREAT GATSBY

F. Scott Fitzgerald went through quite a few titles for his most well-known book before deciding on The Great Gatsby. If he hadn’t arrived at that title, high school kids would be pondering the themes of Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; or The High-Bouncing Lover. Just weeks before publication, he cabled his publisher “CRAZY ABOUT TITLE UNDER THE RED WHITE AND BLUE STOP [WHAT] WOULD DELAY BE.” But he was talked out of it.

The author would later say of the Gatsby title, “It’s O.K. but my heart tells me I should have named it Trimalchio ... Gatsby is too much like Babbit and The Great Gatsby is weak because there’s no emphasis even ironically on his greatness or lack of it. However let it pass.”

2. 1984

George Orwell’s publisher didn’t feel the title to the author's novel, The Last Man in Europe, was terribly commercial. He recommended using the other title Orwell had been kicking around—1984.

3. ATLAS SHRUGGED

Ayn Rand referred to her magnum opus as The Strike for quite some time. In 1956, a year before the book was released, she decided the title gave away too much plot detail. Her husband suggested Atlas Shrugged—then a chapter title—and it stuck.

4. DRACULA

The title of Bram Stoker’s famous Gothic novel sounded more like a spoof before he landed on Dracula—one of the names Stoker considered was The Dead Un-Dead.

5. THE SUN ALSO RISES

Ernest Hemingway’s original title for his 1926 novel—Fiesta—was used for foreign editions, but the American English version was called The Sun Also Rises. Another supposed candidate was “For in much wisdom is much grief and he that increases knowlege [sic] increaseth sorrow.”

6. CATCH-22

Author Joseph Heller wanted to name his story Catch-18, but Leon Uris’s novel Mila 18—released the previous year—made editor Robert Gottlieb want to change the title. He and Heller looked into Catch-11, but because the original Ocean’s Eleven movie was newly in theaters, it was scrapped to avoid confusion. After toying with other numbers, his editor decided on 22, capturing the repetition of 11.

7.TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

To Kill a Mockingbird was simply Atticus before Harper Lee decided the title focused too narrowly on one character.

8. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

An apt precursor to the title Jane Austen finally decided on for her most beloved novel was First Impressions (it’s been proposed that a name change was needed because Margaret Holford published a novel called First Impressions; or the Portrait).

9. THE SECRET GARDEN

Mistress Mary (nowadays better known as Mary, Mary), "quite contrary, how does your garden grow?" Secretly, apparently. Mistress Mary, taken from the classic nursery rhyme, was the working title for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

10. DUBLINERS

Originally called Ulysses in Dublin, James Joyce’s book of short stories, Dubliners, featured many characters that would later appear in his epic Ulysses a few years later.

This piece originally ran in 2010.

A ‘Book Ripper’ in Herne Bay, England Is Ripping Book Pages, Then Putting Them Back on Shelves

demaerre/iStock via Getty Images
demaerre/iStock via Getty Images

Herne Bay, a town about 60 miles east of London, has fallen prey to a new kind of ripper. According to The Guardian, a criminal known as the “Book Ripper” has torn pages within about 100 books in a charity bookstore before placing them back on shelves.

“I’m trying not to be too Sherlock Holmes about it,” Ryan Campbell, chief executive of the charity Demelza, told The Guardian, “but if there’s such a thing as a quite distinctive rip, well, he or she rips the page in half horizontally and sometimes removes half the page.”

Though it’s not the most efficient way to ruin a reading experience, since the pages themselves are still legible as long as they’re left in the book, it’s still devastating to a shop that relies on the generosity of others to serve the underprivileged.

“Of course people donate these books towards the care of children with terminal illness so it’s almost like taking the collection box,” Campbell said.

Since the occasional torn page in a secondhand bookshop isn’t uncommon, booksellers didn’t immediately realize the scope of the issue, but they believe it's been happening for a few months. The Book Ripper targets bookshelves that can’t be seen from the register, and has a favorite genre to vandalize: true crime.

The local library has also reported the same pattern of damage in some of their volumes, and police are now monitoring the situation in both places.

Townspeople are monitoring the situation, too, patrolling bookstores and libraries hoping to apprehend the culprit.

“I’m a little worried about the person,” Campbell said. “It makes you think a little bit about who’s doing this and why they feel the need to do it and what’s going on in their lives.”

[h/t The Guardian]

George R.R. Martin Says Game of Thrones Backlash Won't Influence His Books

Amy Sussman, Getty Images
Amy Sussman, Getty Images

Apparently, no one is immune to fans' negative reaction to Game of Thrones's final season—not even A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin spoke about the overwhelming power of the internet, and how easily it can influence a writer's process. The author said:

"The internet affects [writing] to a degree it was never affected before. Like Jon Snow’s parentage. There were early hints about [who Snow’s parents were] in the books, but only one reader in 100 put it together. And before the internet that was fine—for 99 readers out of 100 when Jon Snow’s parentage gets revealed it would be, ‘Oh, that’s a great twist!’ But in the age of the internet, even if only one person in 100 figures it out then that one person posts it online and the other 99 people read it and go, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’ Suddenly the twist you’re building towards is out there. And there is a temptation to then change it [in the upcoming books]—‘Oh my god, it’s screwed up, I have to come up with something different.’ But that’s wrong. Because you’ve been planning for a certain ending and if you suddenly change direction just because somebody figured it out, or because they don’t like it, then it screws up the whole structure."

Because the temptation can be there, Martin said that he doesn't go digging for fan reactions or theories. "I don’t read the fan sites," he said. "I want to write the book I’ve always intended to write all along. And when it comes out they can like it or they can not like it." For Martin, the same holds true for the way people felt about Game of Thrones as well. While Martin has watched the final season, he isn’t letting any of the events of the series change the way he has always planned to conclude his book series.

"The whole last three years have been strange since the show got ahead of the books,” Martin said. “Yes, I told [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] a number of things years ago. And some of them they did do. But at the same time, it’s different. I have very fixed ideas in my head as I’m writing The Winds of Winter and beyond that in terms of where things are going. It’s like two alternate realities existing side by side. I have to double down and do my version of it which is what I’ve been doing.”

While fans are getting restless for the final books, Martin is teaching his readers an important lesson in patience—one that many people believe HBO’s showrunners could have benefited from: art cannot be rushed. Let’s hope people are happier with Martin's conclusion than they were with the TV show’s.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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