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  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: 1984, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

    Have you ever written a book? It’s very, very hard. Writers have to come up with thousands of perfect words and arrange them just so to create a thrilling and original narrative that also expresses their worldview via memorable and compelling characters. Doing all that requires a set of long-form expression skills, which is quite the opposite of coming up with a title—or encapsulating the entire novel into a handful of well-chosen words. A lot of writers can’t make a book and then also come up with a great title—the latter could and maybe should be up to editors and the marketing department. Here are some beloved classic novels whose authors nearly cursed with a terrible title. 

    Where the Wild Horses Are, by Maurice Sendak
    Where the Wild Things Are is a universally beloved childhood favorite. That’s probably because it’s a lot of fun, but also a little bit scary, and Maurice Sendak never coddles or placates the reader. The friendly monsters called “Wild Things” are so well and mysteriously named that its perplexing that Sendak only called the book what he did to solve a problem. He’d initially planned to write Where the Wild Horses Are. Except that when he sat down to illustrate, he had a really hard time drawing horses. Horses became “Things” and the book’s name changed, too.  

    Tomorrow is Another Day, by Margaret Mitchell
    Let’s get real: Gone with the Wind is a powerful, epic tale of war, love, self-respect, proto-feminism, and believing in onself…but it’s also a bit of a soap opera. As such, Margaret Mitchell nearly stuck her Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel with a number of soapy titles, such as Tote the Weary Load, Bugles Sang True, and Not in Our Stars. Still, the book almost went to print under the name Tomorrow is Another Day…even though that’s a total spoiler for the book’s moving final line. Ultimately Mitchell found the best title from “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae,” a poem by 19th century French poet Ernest Dowson. 

    Something That Happened, by John Steinbeck
    John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is history’s second-best Great Depression novel, second only to Steinbeck’s The Grapes of WrathAs such, it’s a sad tale about desperate men doing desperate things, and Steinbeck reportedly wanted to make sure that the novel didn’t judge the characters one way or the other for the book’s violent conclusion. He tried to express that by going full objective journalism for the title, which is so nonjudgmental that it’s kind of hilarious. He changed his mind when he found some words that said the same thing, that humans are victims of fate, only more poetically. They were in a poem, in fact: Robert Burns’ “Of Mice and Men.” 

    The Last Man in Europe, by George Orwell
    Up until a few months before publication, Orwell was going to call, his novel about a future dystopian totalitarian state in which Big Brother was always watching The Last Man in Europe. At virtually the last minute, Orwell’s publishers asked him to come up something more commercial than what sounds like a book about the last human alive after a zombie apocalypse. His solution: the blunt, ominous far-off futuristic year in which the scary book took place: 1984.  

    Trimalchio in West Egg, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    F. Scott Fitzgerald suggested many high-fallutin’ titles for what ultimately became The Great Gatsby, his book about the rise and fall of the personification of the American Dream in the Jazz Age. Under the Red, White, and Blue was a little too on the nose, as was Gold-Hatted Gatsby. The High-Bounding Lover was just a little-too-1920s. Fitzgerald also really wanted to call his book Trimalchio in West Egg. The latter part reflects the book’s setting; the first part is a literary reference to Trimalchio, a character who enjoys life in obscene excess in the 1st century Roman book The Satyricon. 

    Panasonic, by Don DeLillo
    DeLillo’s meditation on modern life and its many pollutants was titled Panasonic reportedly up to the last round of galleys. But then the Matsushita Corporation, which controlled the trademark of the well-known consumer electronics company, wouldn’t grant permission. So White Noise it was.

    What working titles of classic books are you glad were ultimately revised?

    The post 6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Ella Cosmo 3:30 pm on 2015/07/02 Permalink
    Tags: 1984, be afraid, , , , , lullaby, , scarlett thomas   

    5 Fictional Books Too Dangerous To Read 

    Literature is powerful: books have inspired revolutions and renaissances, toppled kingdoms and changed the course of human existence. But books themselves aren’t dangerous—that is, unless you’re talking about any of the fictional books-within-a-book below. From the simply malicious to the deeply malevolent, all of them are definitely dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.

    The King in Yellow, by Robert W. Chambers
    On its surface, Chambers’s The King in Yellow is simply a collection of eerie short stories. But fans of the supernatural know this cult classic is far more Heart of Darkness than The Gift of the Magi. Each story is loosely connected by variations to a darkly terrifying fictional play entitled The King in Yellow. Wisely, Chambers allows readers only glimpses of the actual text or scenes from the play itself, instead focusing on the horrific ramifications for anyone who reads it or watches a performance—which brings upon the victim an insanity and despair so vast their mind breaks. Think I’m exaggerating how addictively scary The King in Yellow is to readers?  Just know it’s so goosebump-inducing, it was referenced in HBO’s series True Detectiveand has inspired writers like Neil Gaiman and H.P. Lovecraft.

    Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft, by H.P. Lovecraft
    Speaking of the master of the creeping horror genre, no roundup of books hazardous to your health would be complete without H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, a fictional book of magic vastly regarded as the ultimate in dark, evil, and dangerous literature. Supposedly written by the so-called “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred, the grimoire appeared for the first time in Lovecraft’s short story “The Hound.” References to and excerpts from the Necronomicon are interspersed throughout many of his short stories and novellas, and these fleeting and rare mentions are more than enough—the excerpts referenced by Lovecraft are so chilling (“The Call of Cthulhu” still makes me shudder) and the power it wields over the reader so terrible that some people claim the Necronomicon must be a real book.

    The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas
    The End of Mr. Y is surprisingly gritty for a novel with such a philosophical and escapist premise. This is in no small part due to its protagonist, Ariel Manto, a journalist with a voracious appetite for the intellectual whose grim surroundings and messy personal life don’t reflect the ordered world in her mind. Manto is obsessed with the author of a novel titled The End of Mr. Y—an obsession that blossomed after being told anyone who reads the accursed novel will die. While the reader can correctly predict she will in fact both find and read the book, they can also be guaranteed that what follows will be like nothing they’ve ever read. Manto is thrust into an alternate place known as the Troposphere, a world made manifest by human consciousness that removes the limits of the mind. For someone of Manto’s intellectually curiosity, the temptation to immerse herself in the Troposphere is too strong. But all is not what it seems. There’s mischief afoot and dark forces lurking in the shadows of the Troposphere—and the intellectual freedom Manto finds there may come at the cost of her life.

    1984, by George Orwell
    1984 is masterpiece of dystopian fiction. In the 60 years since its publication, Orwell’s profound take on government surveillance and the effects of oppression on the human psyche has become firmly entrenched in the cultural and political lexicon. It also contains a powerful book within a book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Written by a feared and hunted opponent of the state, the text is “a terrible book, a compendium of all the heresies, of which Goldstein was the author and which circulated clandestinely here and there. It was a book without a title. People referred to it, if at all, simply as The Book.” Unlike the other fictional tomes on this list, “The Book,”  despite the terror it invokes, is ultimately a catalyst for good rather than evil, leading the protagonist Winston Smith to fight, however fleetingly, against the tyranny of big government.

    Lullaby, by Chuck Palahniuk
    In Palahniuk’s Lullaby, a children’s book is the source of a unique and terrifying outbreak. Simply named Poems & Rhymes, the book’s dark magic is triggered by reading the lullabies written inside; doing so imbues the reader with the power to kill instantly. This dark magic is uncovered by reporter Carl Streator, who embarks upon a breakneck quest to stop the spread of the infection by any means necessary. Accompanied by what can only be described as a ragtag group of co-adventurers, the novel is by turns refreshingly humorous and terrifying, keeping readers on their toes. Lullaby is one of those books that keeps you up late at night, because you just have to find out what happens next. Almost as though the power of Lullaby has infected you, too…

    What dangerous books have we missed? Tell us in the comments, if you dare.

  • Ellen Wehle 5:30 pm on 2014/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: 1984, 5 Classics I've Never Read, do androids dream of electric sheep?, dystopian classics, , , , , orx and crake, , the lathe of heaven, the year of the flood, this perfect day, ursula leguin   

    5 Can’t-Miss Classics of Dystopian Fiction 

    Dystopian Novels

    For as long as we’ve had visions of utopia and perfect bliss, we’ve also envisioned the opposite. Mad scientists, thought police, totalitarian governments…in these grim versions of the future, there’s no shortage of villains. Always, however, the real culprit is human nature. If you enjoyed recent dystopian reads like  The Hunger Games trilogy and California, check out the dystopian classics that came first:

    The Maddaddam Books: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam, by Margaret Atwood
    Convinced the human race is beyond hope, a scientist named Crake releases a deadly plague, but not before creating a new race of his own. His bioengineered “Crakers” are, like Adam and Eve, perfect beings meant to inherit the earth. The second book gives us deeper insight into Crake, showing us the world he grew up in, a world where consumer culture has run mad and religious cults like “God’s Gardeners” protest futilely against uber-corporations. Atwood does the just-about-impossible, making us pity (or at least understand) a man who’d like to wipe out humanity. Finally, one of the plague survivors, now confined to a fortified compound, relates this history to the Children of Crake, bringing the trilogy to a bittersweet close.

    1984, by George Orwell
    Winston Smith is a government employee of the Ministry of Truth, altering historical records to reflect whatever story the Party prefers. Even negative thoughts against the Party can be punished, and at home, in secret, Winston has been writing his thoughts in a diary. So it’s hardly surprising that when he catches a pretty girl staring, his first response is to fear she may be onto him. But Julia is also a rebel, and soon the two are meeting for trysts, taking the greatest risk of all—falling in love—in a society where every move is watched by Big Brother.

    This Perfect Day, by Ira Levin
    If you haven’t heard of this 1970 novel (which is entirely possible, as it seems to fly under the radar), get ready to stay up all night reading. Though Levin is better known for Rosemary’s Baby, to my mind This Perfect Day is his masterpiece. Under the benevolent control of a computer called Uni, the world’s population is peaceful and happy, provided they take their monthly drugs. Initially the hero, Chip, is a conformist: when his grandfather warns him Uni has a dark side, six-year-old Chip promptly reports him to the authorities. Years later his grandfather’s words return to him, and a rebel leader is born.

    The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin
    Once again, the desire to do good results in terrible evil. George Orr has a power he can’t control: whatever he dreams turns into reality. His psychiatrist, Dr. Haber, sees the potential to improve society and begins giving George suggestions while he’s under hypnosis. But in true Frankenstein fashion, each improvement only triggers more pain. Hunger, overpopulation? Haber whispers in his ear, and George wakes to a world where millions have died in a plague. Another whisper and alien spaceships land on earth. Soon the very fabric of reality is at risk.

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick
    San Francisco, 2021. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard tracks down escaped androids and ruthlessly “retires” them. Rick uses an empathy test to avoid killing humans by mistake: if they fail, the theory goes, they must be android. The irony, of course, is that Rick himself would never pass the test. Locked in a loveless marriage, his one desire is to own a non-mechanical animal, now (owing to mass extinctions) the ultimate status symbol. While Ridley Scott’s movie version, Blade Runner, differs widely from the book, both are marvelous, portraying a human race on the brink of losing all emotion. Enjoy both versions and compare—especially the endings.

    What’s your favorite classic dystopian novel?

  • Maurie Backman 5:00 pm on 2014/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: 1984, , , , , , , ,   

    6 Book-Based Apps We Wish Existed 

    George Orwell's 1984

    Just try to name a day-to-day problem that an app can’t fix. Forgot where you’re going and need directions? There’s an app for that. Too lazy to blow out your own birthday candles? No, seriously, there’s an app. Apps run the gamut from wonderfully useful to frustratingly time-wasting, but we still think there’s a huge untapped market out there: that of lit-based apps. Here are a few that are book-inspired, and just ridiculous enough to be worth that 99-cent download:

    The Alice in Wonderland Reality Check App
    Sometimes it’s hard to know whether your mind’s playing tricks on you, or whether that long-haired guitar player in a cowboy hat you just passed on the street really was completely naked. Enter the Reality Check app, where all you need to do is submit a basic description of the oddity you just encountered. Using that information combined with your location, the app will spit back a weirdness quotient that will help you determine whether you’re indeed going crazy or actually saw what you think you saw. (Naked Cowboy in Times Square? You bet you saw it. Tap-dancing chipmunks at an Omaha YMCA? Maybe take a long nap before leaving the house again.)

    Mr. Darcy’s You’ve Got Game App
    Not so smooth with the ladies? Don’t settle for overused pickup lines and empty gestures that never work. Just plug in some information about the date you’re trying to land, and this handy tool will pop out a customized multi-step plan that practically guarantees success—with plenty of proud and prejudiced negs along the way. The path to true love never did run smooth, but this app guarantees ultimate success.

    The Catch-22 App
    So your boss wants you to include data from your company’s latest focus group in your weekly report, but the marketing team wants to wait to receive your report before releasing that data? What to do? Simply enter the no-win scenarios you’re faced with, and this app will spit back logical, practical advice that’s far more reliable than any Magic Eight Ball.

    The Gulliver’s Travels App
    Not sure where to head on your upcoming vacation? Try the Gulliver’s Travel app. Just enter your requirements—great food, comfortable climate, the ability to completely tower over the locals—and this trusty app will spit out a host of recommendations.

    The Shining Haunted Hotel App
    Love being spooked? Forget about ghost tours or creepy carnival attractions. To experience the real deal, consult this nifty app, which will tell you where to find the most eerie, ghost-inhabited lodgings in town. But you’re on your own once you’re inside the haunted hedge maze—those things have the worst reception.

    The 1984 Big Brother Is Watching App
    These days, you really never know who’s watching your every move. Choose your city, and this app will tell you where all the street cams and surveillance devices are hiding, so you’ll know when to think twice before littering or sneaking through a red light.

    What book-based apps do you wish existed?

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:30 pm on 2014/07/11 Permalink
    Tags: 1984, , , , , , , postapocalyptic fiction, ,   

    Edan Lepucki’s California Nightmare 


    It’s no wonder dystopian and postapocalyptic fiction has experienced a renaissance in recent years: it provides escapism on so many levels. There’s nothing like reading a book that makes you feel grateful for the fact that you can take a hot shower and eat a hot meal, that it’s unnecessary for you to choose a faction, that Big Brother is not watching your every move, and that you’re not obligated to risk your life by participating in an annual Hunger Games death match. That’s right, fellow pre-apocalypse friends: Life is good!…For now.

    All right, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a book that immerses you in a good old-fashioned dystopian future—and the more realistic, unique, and twisted, the better. That’s why I’m so excited about Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California—but that’s also why writing about it has left me feeling conflicted. It’s so deliciously filled with clever, creepy twists right up until the end that I don’t want to risk giving anything away. So please, bear with me while I keep my description short; you’ll just have to trust me that this book is going to be one cultural phenomenon you won’t want to be left out of. While reading it I found echoes of William Goldman’s Lord of the Flies, traces of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, even shades of George Orwell’s 1984—and if that doesn’t have you headed out the door to pick up a copy, then I just don’t know what to do with you.

    California begins with the story of a young woman, Frida, and her husband, Cal, who are living completely off the grid after the collapse of modern American society as we know it—widespread economic and social destabilization, as well as a surfeit of environmental disasters across the country.

    Although their isolated life is not easy, Frida and Cal are lucky enough to be able to rely on each other for support and comfort, and, thanks to their deep love and affection for one another, they manage to function surprisingly well under very trying circumstances—that is, until Frida begins to suspect she might be pregnant.

    This frightening yet thrilling revelation throws their fragile, self-reliant existence into turmoil. Unsure of the wisdom of bringing a child into their lonely two-person world, Friday and Cal ultimately decide to venture away from the safety of their secluded home base in search of a mysterious (and potentially hostile) settlement that they have been led to believe is only a few days’ journey away.

    And they do reach it, but the moment they do, their situation becomes infinitely more complex. While initially Cal and Frida are excited to have found a community of other survivors, they are soon forced to admit that sometimes you should be careful what you wish for. Along with an infusion of new faces, comforts, rules, and customs comes an added element of danger, and worrisome situations that are increasingly out of their control. Worst of all, Frida and Cal’s relationship, which has long been one of mutual respect and trust, is thrown out of balance—along with every other element of their once fairly predictable existence. But now that they’ve come this far, the question is, can they ever go home?

    Are you planning to check out California?

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