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

    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.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2016/01/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , george orwell, , , ,   

    5 Novels Based on Bonkers Things That Actually Happened 

    Suspension of disbelief is a term that describes our willingness to be fooled. We all know that when we crack open a novel, we’re volunteering to be lied to, after all; the author is spinning a tale, and in order to enjoy it, we put aside our usual suspicion and distrust. We’re willingly lied to, even if we know on some level that it’s all trickery. Except when it isn’t: sometimes you read a novel describing events so incredible your suspension of disbelief begins to collapse into actual disbelief—and then you discover the story is based on true events, and your entire worldview is challenged. Here are five novels based on incredible, unbelievable things that actually happened.

    The Revenant, by Michael Punke
    In the early 19th century, a man named Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear while on a trapping mission with a handful of other men. Badly mauled and far away from even the primitive medical care available at the time, he’s left for dead with two men instructed to guard him from local (and antagonistic) American Indian tribes and bury him properly when he dies. When American Indians do arrive on the scene, however, the men steal Glass’s weapons and other gear and abandon him—but not only does he not die, he drags himself hundreds of miles to an outpost, heals, and then sets out to seek revenge. This story seems as impossible as 127 Hours, but it’s just as real; Punke’s exhaustive research proves it happened.

    The Heart of the Sea and Moby Dick, by Nathaniel Philbrick and Herman Melville
    In perhaps the most meta moment of all time, every year the novel Moby Dick becomes thousands of students’ personal White Whale, a book readers fear and dread but must face down. While Melville’s classic remains a challenging, brilliant work of fiction, Philbrick’s nonfiction work illuminates the true story of the whaling ship Essex, which in 1819 was rammed and sunk by an enormous sperm whale, leaving the remaining crew to struggle for three months to survive in tiny open boats—or not survive, as most died of thirst, starvation, and exposure before reaching safety. The fact that anyone lived to tell the tale at all would be an unbelievable plot twist if the story were fiction.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    Martin’s epic fantasy may wind up taking as long to write as the historical events that inspired it took to transpire; while the Wars of the Roses didn’t involve any dragons or undead hordes streaming in from Scotland (although the English tended to treat the Scots similarly to the Free Folk), this dynastic struggle for the crown in 15th-century England is Martin’s avowed inspiration for the “game of thrones” that sets the horrific events of his story in motion. The Wars of the Roses lasted about 30 years and included as much (or more) betrayal, skullduggery, and violence as Martin’s books, ultimately elevating Henry Tudor, Henry VIII’s father and Elizabeth I’s grandfather, and transforming England in ways that changed not just English history, but world history. If you think Martin’s plot twists are crazy, try reading the history that inspired them.

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    Animal Farm is likely more disturbing than Orwell’s 1984, despite the latter’s bleak view of human nature and emphasis on gruesome torture, because it begins almost like a fairy tale, with a farm filled with talking animals who dream of overthrowing their human oppressors and creating a utopia. Orwell skillfully makes the animals into real characters, so it’s all the more heartbreaking to see the dream corrupted as a brutal fight for power and authority transforms a ideal society into a dystopian nightmare, where some animals are more equal than others. Orwell explicitly based the plot on the events surrounding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the civil wars that followed, Stalin’s rise to power, and the subsequent consolidation of authority.

    Psycho, by Robert Bloch
    Although Hitchcock’s film adaptation has eclipsed Bloch’s novel, the book remains a tense psychological thriller. If you think the idea of a disturbed man murdering people and keeping the mummified corpse of his mother seated in his house, where he frequently has conversations with her, to be a bit out there, consider the real-life serial killer the story is based on: Ed Gein, who made “clothing” out of human skin taken from his victims in order to create a “woman suit” he could wear so he could pretend to be his own mother. Bloch claims he wasn’t aware of Gein until the novel was almost completed, but the details are so similar it seems like too strong a coincidence.

     
  • Jeff Somers 7:00 pm on 2016/01/21 Permalink
    Tags: , , george orwell, , , ,   

    5 Novels Based on Bonkers Things That Actually Happened 

    Suspension of disbelief is a term that describes our willingness to be fooled. We all know that when we crack open a novel, we’re volunteering to be lied to, after all; the author is spinning a tale, and in order to enjoy it, we put aside our usual suspicion and distrust. We’re willingly lied to, even if we know on some level that it’s all trickery. Except when it isn’t: sometimes you read a novel describing events so incredible your suspension of disbelief begins to collapse into actual disbelief—and then you discover the story is based on true events, and your entire worldview is challenged. Here are five novels based on incredible, unbelievable things that actually happened.

    The Revenant, by Michael Punke
    In the early 19th century, a man named Hugh Glass is attacked by a grizzly bear while on a trapping mission with a handful of other men. Badly mauled and far away from even the primitive medical care available at the time, he’s left for dead with two men instructed to guard him from local (and antagonistic) American Indian tribes and bury him properly when he dies. When American Indians do arrive on the scene, however, the men steal Glass’s weapons and other gear and abandon him—but not only does he not die, he drags himself hundreds of miles to an outpost, heals, and then sets out to seek revenge. This story seems as impossible as 127 Hours, but it’s just as real; Punke’s exhaustive research proves it happened.

    The Heart of the Sea and Moby Dick, by Nathaniel Philbrick and Herman Melville
    In perhaps the most meta moment of all time, every year the novel Moby Dick becomes thousands of students’ personal White Whale, a book readers fear and dread but must face down. While Melville’s classic remains a challenging, brilliant work of fiction, Philbrick’s nonfiction work illuminates the true story of the whaling ship Essex, which in 1819 was rammed and sunk by an enormous sperm whale, leaving the remaining crew to struggle for three months to survive in tiny open boats—or not survive, as most died of thirst, starvation, and exposure before reaching safety. The fact that anyone lived to tell the tale at all would be an unbelievable plot twist if the story were fiction.

    A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin
    Martin’s epic fantasy may wind up taking as long to write as the historical events that inspired it took to transpire; while the Wars of the Roses didn’t involve any dragons or undead hordes streaming in from Scotland (although the English tended to treat the Scots similarly to the Free Folk), this dynastic struggle for the crown in 15th-century England is Martin’s avowed inspiration for the “game of thrones” that sets the horrific events of his story in motion. The Wars of the Roses lasted about 30 years and included as much (or more) betrayal, skullduggery, and violence as Martin’s books, ultimately elevating Henry Tudor, Henry VIII’s father and Elizabeth I’s grandfather, and transforming England in ways that changed not just English history, but world history. If you think Martin’s plot twists are crazy, try reading the history that inspired them.

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    Animal Farm is likely more disturbing than Orwell’s 1984, despite the latter’s bleak view of human nature and emphasis on gruesome torture, because it begins almost like a fairy tale, with a farm filled with talking animals who dream of overthrowing their human oppressors and creating a utopia. Orwell skillfully makes the animals into real characters, so it’s all the more heartbreaking to see the dream corrupted as a brutal fight for power and authority transforms a ideal society into a dystopian nightmare, where some animals are more equal than others. Orwell explicitly based the plot on the events surrounding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the civil wars that followed, Stalin’s rise to power, and the subsequent consolidation of authority.

    Psycho, by Robert Bloch
    Although Hitchcock’s film adaptation has eclipsed Bloch’s novel, the book remains a tense psychological thriller. If you think the idea of a disturbed man murdering people and keeping the mummified corpse of his mother seated in his house, where he frequently has conversations with her, to be a bit out there, consider the real-life serial killer the story is based on: Ed Gein, who made “clothing” out of human skin taken from his victims in order to create a “woman suit” he could wear so he could pretend to be his own mother. Bloch claims he wasn’t aware of Gein until the novel was almost completed, but the details are so similar it seems like too strong a coincidence.

     
  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 6:00 pm on 2015/12/09 Permalink
    Tags: almost doesn't count, and to think that I saw it on mulberry street, , , , east wind: west wind, george orwell, , , pearl s. buck, , , , the diary of a young girl   

    More Essential Books that Almost Never Saw the Light of Day 

    The best, most beloved books often have one thing in common: a struggle to be published. Some of our most important stories, from Anne Frank’s unforgettable diary, to the wanderlust classic On the Road, and even early books by childhood idol Dr. Seuss, were passed over by multiple agents and publishers. Yet sometimes it’s those books that break rules, the ones labeled “too different” for a mainstream audience, that become the ones we really needed. Check out some of the books below, (or some from our earlier post on books that almost never were), and fall in love with something a little “different.”

    The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
    Plath, the Pulitzer Prize-winning idol of many poets and readers in search of a coming of age story, had to publish her novel The Bell Jar under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel faced rejection because the publishing house saw it as “disappointing, juvenile and overwrought.” Now it’s compared to The Catcher in the Rye, (another frequently rejected title, ahem).

    Animal Farm, by George Orwell
    When T.S. Eliot was the editing director of Faber & Faber, he rejected Animal Farm because he “did not want to upset the Soviets in those fraught years of World War II.” There was no mention of a problem with Orwell’s writing, and he was already a household name with five other books in print. In this case, in contrast to other rejected writers, politics—not style—almost stopped this required reading staple from ever hitting bookshelves.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
    Anne Frank’s dairy faced unusual hurdles on the road to publication. After her hiding place was discovered, the remnants of her notebooks left behind by the Nazis were kept hidden for years. Eventually her father reclaimed them and worked to bring her voice to light. Under his watchful eye, though, many of the teenage struggles he thought might offend more conservative readers were edited out of the book. A text with fewer edits was later released, giving readers more insight into this vibrant, inspirational young girl.

    On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
    The jewel in the Beat generation’s literary crown, One the Road was initially said to be too provocative and nontraditional. In one very harsh rejection letter Kerouac was told, “this is a badly misdirected talent and…this huge sprawling and inconclusive novel would probably have small sales and sardonic indignant reviews from every side.” The passionate fanbase that exists to this day might disagree with that sentiment.

    East Wind: West Wind, by Pearl S. Buck
    Pearl S. Buck struggled to find an American publishing house for her debut. As one of the few Americans living in China, and one who had close relationships with Chinese writers, Buck was positioned better than anyone to bring China to America with her epic, cross-cultural coming of age story. She was told in a rejection letter that American readers “aren’t interested in China,” but clearly this proved to be untrue. Buck became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature.     

    And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, by Dr. Seuss
    Pretty much everything Dr. Seuss wrote in his early career faced rejection. His first book was passed over 27 times before finally finding a home. Rumor is, he was told his books were “too different” to be published. The Cat in the Hat, Horton, and the Grinch may have never been, just for being different, though ultimately that’s what made them great. Considering the way Dr. Seuss has become a cornerstone of early literacy, a world without him in it would be one with fewer people whose passion for reading began with his giddy, rhyming tales.

    What books do you love that were once overlooked by publishers?

     
  • Ella Cosmo 3:30 pm on 2015/07/02 Permalink
    Tags: , be afraid, , , george orwell, , 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.

     
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