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  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , of mice and men, , ,   

    6 Classic Books That Almost Had Completely Different Titles 

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    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 3:55 pm on 2015/07/28 Permalink
    Tags: , being there, , , of mice and men, ,   

    Let’s Celebrate the Best Morons in Literature 

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    It’s easy to celebrate smart people—detectives who figure out mysteries just by observing clues, evil geniuses who devise horrific ways of ending the world and the sullen brainiacs who defeat them, anyone who figures out how to game the system and come out on top. But let’s put aside the hero-worship, because we all know that in literature at least, it’s the morons we enjoy the most. They deliver chaos and stupidity right when a plot needs them, and lend otherwise incredible actions credible by dint of their obtuse idiocy. Forget the smart heroes, and take a moment to celebrate some of the greatest, dumbest characters in literary history.

    Chauncey Gardiner, Being There, by Jerzy Kosinski
    Chance the Gardener is without question an empty vessel—a moron who has known nothing but the garden he tends for the wealthy “Old Man,” and what he sees on television. When the Old Man dies, a series of chance meetings and coincidences convinces a group of wealthy, connected people, including the president of the United States himself, that Chance (whose name has been misheard as Chauncey Gardiner) is a genius of few words and immense vision. Mocking the modern world of soundbites and instant celebrity, this prescient novel is still hilarious today. There is a chewy center of despair in Chance, who remains completely unchanged and unaffected by everything he experiences, ending the story back in a garden, where he finally feels at home.

    Benjy Compson, The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
    Benjy is easily one of the most complex, challenging characters in literature. His lyrical, time-jumping, emotionally inarticulate narration at the start of Faulkner’s novel has caused more than one reader to admit defeat and back away from the book slowly, as one would from a hungry bear that has crashed your campsite. Benjy is never a figure of fun—he is a tragic, almost a force of nature, a person who cannot speak or communicate with those around him, a character who clings to the few stable aspects of his life like a drowning man to a log. Seeing the world from Benjy’s point of view is incredibly challenging, but in the end, his tragic life is the one we get to know best, lending The Sound and the Fury an elegant sadness.

    Ignatius J. Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
    The smartest, best-read moron in literary history, Ignatius J. Reilly is a comical figure of contrasts. He’s a man who disdains the modern world, yet enjoys many of its comforts. He’s completely incompetent in almost everything he tries (even selling hot dogs turns into an Epic Fail), yet looks down on almost everyone he encounters. He believes himself to be open-minded and worldly, despite never having left his home city of New Orleans—in fact, his one attempt to travel a modest distance remains a story of deep psychological horror he repeats often. Reilly’s attempts to wriggle free of society’s requirements only lead him to work far harder and live deeper in squalor than he otherwise would. He is a lesson to anyone who has railed against the fact that we all have to “fit in” somehow to society.

    Lennie Small, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
    One of the most tragic figures in literature, Lennie Small is a huge, powerful man who loves animals, his friend George, and their shared dream of living a simple life on their own farm. The Lennie/George dynamic is so well-known today, it’s a cliché that’s often used humorously, but Lennie himself is tragic; incredibly strong, but lacking the brains needed to use his strength constructively, Lennie kills the things he loves by accident. His charming innocence endears him to the reader, and we wish for a happy ending—but the version of “happy” that Lennie receives heaps tragedy upon tragedy.

    Don Quixote, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
    One of the few literary characters whose name coined an adjective, Don Quixote is a marvelous creation, a man driven mad by reading too many romantic stories of medieval chivalry who sets out to be a knight, to set things right, and to find his “lady love.” Although more insane than actually stupid, Don Quixote’s misadventures always harm the people he attempts to help, and always leave in their wake more chaos than anything else. He’s a remarkably dumb, albeit charming, character who has come to define the crazy, stupid passion that inspires people to make poor decisions, waste resources, and ultimately fail in their stated endeavors. Of all the morons on this list, the world would truly be a dimmer place without this one.

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  • Kate Willsky 3:30 pm on 2014/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , matchmaking, of mice and men, , , , , ,   

    Perfect Celebrity Love Matches for Our Favorite Fictional Characters 

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    Gustave Flaubert's Madame BovaryIn third grade, I was in love with JTT (who wasn’t?) but I also dreamed of running away with the Artful Dodger. For readers, there’s little distinction between speculating on the love lives of famous actors and of famous literary characters. But since characters’ romances are sealed within the pages of their books, they aren’t subject to Bey and Jay level scrutiny. But nothing can prevent us from wondering who, for example, Walter Berglund would pair off with at the Golden Globes after party, or who Katniss Everdeen might take to the Teen Choice Awards. Here are 12 iconic literary characters and who we think they’d date on the celebrity scene:

    Emma Bovary (Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert)
    Poor Emma Bovary serves as a tragic example of why fairy tale romances are just that—fairy tales. She needs a man who can indulge her Prince Charming fantasy but also help her focus on the more meaningful and substantive things in life. Only Brad Pitt, with his classic good looks and world-saving ways, can reign in this fickle beauty.

    Dmitri Karamazov (The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
    This passionate and impulsive antihero is tricky to match. He’s guilt-riddled, a philanderer, and maybe a murderer, but he’s looking for a simple, goodhearted gal who will stand by him if he gets locked up forever. Oh, and she also needs to have major sex appeal (Grushenka sets a pretty high bar). Only one wholesome-at-heart sex kitten with humble beginnings fits the bill: Katy Perry. If she can handle Russell Brand, Dmitri’s brooding and baggage will be a breeze.

    Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger)
    Introspective, jaded Holden needs a partner who has shaken off the yoke of angsty adolescence, but still has substance beneath the smiles. Enter Maisie Williams, whose curiosity and intelligence make her a good foil to his dark outlook. She’s also a world traveler, and knows enough about winter to tell Holden what the heck happens to the ducks when it comes.

    Jo March (Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott)
    Tomboyish and quick to anger, Jo needs someone playful enough to indulge her goofy side, patient enough to tolerate her temper, and smart enough to engage her intellect. I see down-to-earth goofball—and Brown grad—John Krasinski being the real-life Jim to her Pam.

    George (Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck)
    He’s a bit of an impatient hothead, but George has unshakable loyalty and will always be true to the one he loves. He’s a blue-collar guy, seeking an unpretentious lady who can help soften his rough edges, and there’s no better match for him than Carey Mulligan. She’s proven her ability to handle a man with a temper, and her sunny outlook provides a perfect counterpoint to George’s grumbling.

    Catherine Linton (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë)
    The passionate, status-conscious, selfish Catherine requires not only all-consuming love with a man as intense as she is, but also money and prestige, and lots of it. As the son of a business mogul and model, Julian Casablancas, the grungy, ponderous frontman of The Strokes, marries the depth of Heathcliff with the moola and stature of Edgar.

    Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey)
    As the machinelike enforcer at an Oregon psychiatric hospital, Nurse Ratched is cold, controlling, and immune to human appeals. She won’t be charmed easily, nor will she be quick to let down her guard and be vulnerable with a man. It’ll take something stronger than electroshock treatments to break her cold exterior: this smile. George, she’s all yours.

    Meursault (The Stranger, by Albert Camus)
    Only a woman who has thought through all the big questions—and believes in the answers she’s come to—can handle the misanthrope who narrates Camus’ iconic existential tale. One look at Helena Bonham Carter’s hats tells you she’s seen the absurdity of existence, and rather than take it as a sign that All Must End, she uses it as a free pass to treat life as a playful-if-meaningless adventure. I see many long walks on the beach in this couple’s future.

    Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling)
    While she may harbor some childhood affection for her buddy Ron, let’s be real, Hermione needs somebody a bit more sophisticated. A renaissance man, one with an insatiable desire to learn, as well as an ability to laugh at himself when she inevitably corrects him. Accio: James Franco!

    Leopold Bloom (Ulysses, by James Joyce)
    This sensitive, neurotic, intellectually curious man needs a partner who can answer his questions and indulge his interest in science and how things work. Natalie Portman, having been published twice in scientific journals and being as interested in learning as she is in being a movie star, could be more than just a rebound after Leopold ends things with unfaithful Ms. Molly.

    Which modern-day celebrity would your favorite fictional character pair off with?

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