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  • Brian Boone 5:00 pm on 2018/01/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , the great gatsby, ,   

    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.

  • Jen Harper 3:00 pm on 2016/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: #booknerds, , literary filters, snapchat, the great gatsby,   

    8 Literary Snapchat Lenses Every Reader Needs 

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    We’ve all seen enough of ourselves barfing rainbows and sticking out our puppy tongues on Snapchat (though, honestly, we can’t get enough of the flower crowns). So, Snapchat, how about throwing some snap-happy love to the bibliophiles? We’ve already gotten a headstart with some ideas for new literary-themed lenses for book-loving snappers.

    The Sorting Hat: There are enough ideas from the Harry Potter series for the Boy Who Lived to have his own Snapchat lens takeover day. There’s Harry Potter face, complete with glasses and lightning bolt scar; Voldemort’s monstrous visage; and, of course, a Daily Prophet cover with moving pictures. But the one that we’d like to see the most is the Sorting Hat plopped onto our selfie and then proclaiming to which house we belong.

    Fake Book Covers: New York comedian Scott Rogowsky started trolling people on the subway earlier this year by creating fake book covers like Human Taxidermy: A Beginner’s Guide and Gone Girl 2: Even Goner to spark some funny reactions from his fellow riders. Rogowsky’s viral videos featuring the often NSFW covers could inspire a new Snapchat lens in which the selfie-taker raises her eyebrows and up pops a different fake cover each time to make it look like you really are reading Lean Back, the (completely fake) Fat Joe memoir penned by Sheryl Sandberg.

    Rotting Pig Head on a Stick: OK, yes, this one is kind of gross, but it’s a famous literary symbol! And seeing the flies orbiting their own rotting pig heads on Snapchat might even inspire some teens to read more than just the SparkNotes for Lord of the Flies.

    The Great Gatsby Book Cover: The cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby—created by Spanish artist Francis Cugat—is nearly as iconic as the book itself. Sad eyes, a heavy brow, and a red lip adrift against a deep blue night sky makes for a striking cover and Snap lens.

    Book Cover Face Swap: It’s just like regular face swap except you don’t need another person (or animal) face with which to swap—just hold up your latest read, and your face will be magically transferred to the cover.

    Crushed by Book Avalanche: It’s a chronic problem faced by all book lovers—too many books, not enough space for them all. This Snapchat lens would give you a little glimpse into the future of what could happen if you let those stacks get too out of control. It would show towers of books all around you teetering, then when you open your mouth—BOOM! Crushed by book avalanche. Not such a terrible way to go for a bibliophile.

    Evil Librarian Face: We all have recollections of being shushed at some point by a librarian—and maybe we’ve even become the shushers now ourselves at those times when we’re deeply entrenched in a book and keep getting interrupted by those damn kids who just won’t shut up! To that end, we give you the Evil Librarian Face. At first, she just looks like a kindly old librarian—hair in a bun, glasses, demure cardigan—but when you bring your finger up to your lips in a “shhhh!” motion, her face turns demonic, complete with gray skin, red eyes, and pointy teeth. Just like the librarian of your nightmares.

    Twilight Vampire: We all know that the vampires in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series turned super-hot once they became immortal, so we thought it would be fun to have a new beautifying lens that let’s us see what we’d look like if Edward Cullen gave us a little bite.

    What book-themed lenses would you like to see added to Snapchat?

  • Jeff Somers 4:33 pm on 2015/06/09 Permalink
    Tags: alternate views, , , , , , , , , , , , , the great gatsby,   

    5 Fictional Romantic Leads Who Deserve the Grey Treatment 

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    It’s no shock that demand for more tales from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades universe remains high. What is a delightful surprise is James’s decision to explore the relationship by going back and telling the story from Christian’s point of view in the forthcoming Grey. It’s an exciting decision, bringing a renewed depth and urgency to the story, and giving readers the opportunity to have their assumptions challenged. Retelling the story from a different point of view is a genius move—and one we wish other authors had made over the years.

    As a matter of fact, James isn’t the first writer to have this idea—Veronica Roth Released Four: A Divergent Collection last year, five short stories from the Divergent universe told from Four’s perspective. Roth originally tried to write Divergent from Four’s point of view, in fact, abandoning that version when she created the character of Tris and fell in love with her voice, but she always felt that Four “has a distinct history and a complex psychology” and wanted to explore his point of view more. With some stories that retell events from Divergent and others that offer up new background information on Four, it’s a fascinating look at events from the books and the relationship between Tris and Four from a whole new perspective, and fans love the opportunity to get to know their favorite characters and stories more deeply. Here are four other famous romantic couples we’d love to see get the Grey/Four alternative perspective treatment.

    Q and Margo from Paper Towns, by John Green
    Part of the point of Green’s great novel (a film version of which drops this summer) is that Q can only see things from his perspective—a perspective that proves to be pretty narrow by the end of the story. After falling in love with the Margo he imagines, and then perceiving clues and intention where none actually exists, he must by the end of the book accept that he wasn’t dealing with reality, but rather with his own desires. Margo is a fantastic character who injects a crazy energy into Q’s life and inspires a life-changing road trip. Seeing the same story from her point of view, and finding out in detail what she’s up to while Q and his friends follow the “clues” and pursue her, would be fascinating.

    Claire and Jamie from Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    It’s true that over the course of her novels, Gabaldon opens up the story to other points of view—she’s even stated in interviews that she tries to add a new POV character in each new novel. And it’s also true we’ve had sequences from Jamie’s point of view. But wouldn’t it be grand if we got to read the whole story from his perspective, from Claire’s arrival from the future through the witch trial? On the one hand, this would be difficult to navigate. On the other hand, it would be tremendously fun to see how Gabaldon would narrate events through a red-blooded 18th century Scot’s point of view.

    Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    Gatsby and Daisy’s doomed romance is so burned into our collective consciousness, and has been adapted for the screen so many times, it’s easy to forget the whole story is told from Nick Carraway’s point of view—we never get inside the head of either of the lovers. A book told from Gatsby’s point of view might ruin the mystery that still surrounds one of the greatest characters of all time, but the story told from Daisy’s point of view might shine light on heretofore hidden aspects of the story—most notably why Daisy is such an object of obsession for Gatsby in the first place, as from Nick’s point of view the character never seems to quite deserve such passion.

    Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
    A permanent classic of American novels and American romance, this is one of those stories where both principles in a love affair are equally interesting. While Jane’s voice and personality continue to entrance readers to this day, Mr. Rochester is also a fascinating character filled with surprises, and surprising depths. Hearing the tale of how Jane came into his life and how he developed a passion for her—and hearing Jane’s famous speech admitting her feelings—from his point of view would no doubt be entertaining and revealing, and just a lot of fun.

    If Grey is a smash hit, which it likely will be, maybe one positive effect will be inspiring other authors to offer up alternative takes on their most popular characters.

    Pre-order Grey >
  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2015/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , kevin birmingham, , , peter finn, petra couvee, the great gatsby, ,   

    Five Books that Tell the Story Behind the Story 

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    Sometimes it seems like classic novels have just always existed: they were there before most of us were born, and seem an eternal aspect of the cultural landscape. But behind every novel is a second story, a sometimes-hidden one about how that novel came to be. And these stories-behind-the-stories are sometimes just as fascinating as the novels they produced. Here are five absorbing investigations into what lies behind five famous novels.

    The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, by Kevin Birmingham
    When people imagine the classic suffering novelist, they may not realize James Joyce is the original template. He struggled to get his work published in his lifetime, suffered myriad physical maladies exacerbated by constant money troubles, and loved recklessly. His novel Ulysses is one of the most difficult and most celebrated in the English language—and for a time was banned as obscene. Birmingham follows Joyce’s life from the initial inspiration for what became Ulysses in 1904 to its final vindication and publication in the U.S. in 1934. He takes what sounds like a dry legalistic plod and turns it into a thriller, with the Good Guys fighting small-minded bluenoses in the name of one of the greatest novels ever written.

    Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr.
    More than 75 years after its publication, it can be difficult for modern readers to understand the phenomenon that was Gone with the Wind when it first published in 1936. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was an instant bestseller, and was quickly adapted into the epic film many of us probably know better than the book. Brown and Wiley don’t waste our time by retreading Mitchell’s life, but rather focus on the mechanics of how a debut novel from an unknown writer became an instant pop culture smash hit that has maintained its grip on the public consciousness ever since.

    So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, by Maureen Corrigan
    Most of us meet The Great Gatsby in school at some point, when, frankly, we’re probably too young and inexperienced to really understand it—but every year people rediscover Gatsby and are amazed at what they find. Corrigan explores the genesis of this incredible novel and how it was conceived and written by a troubled genius, who died thinking he was a complete failure in his chosen field. If your memories of Gatsby are mainly of being bored stiff in a classroom, this incredible exploration will inspire you to give the book a fresh look—and you won’t be disappointed.

    The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book, by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée
    Not many novels are used as weapons in a war, but Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago wasn’t just any novel. When Pasternak wrote it in the 1950s, he was the Soviet Union’s greatest living poet, but he knew his story of the Russian Revolution would never be published in his own country. He had the manuscript smuggled out and published in the West, where it became a sensation. And that’s where Finn and Couvée find the amazing hook for their story, because the CIA saw an opportunity to assault Soviet hearts and minds, and had a Russian-language edition printed and smuggled into the U.S.S.R. The story of this classic novel is a spy thriller that could have been told by John le Carré; as incredible a tale as the book itself.

    The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills
    Not many people can befriend Truman Capote, write a Pulitzer-winning debut novel, and then retire to a simple, quiet life in their hometown for the next six decades—but that is precisely what Harper Lee did (before letting the world back in, earlier this year, with the announcement of Mockingbird “sequel” Go Set a Watchman). After decades of the author refusing interviews, journalist Marja Mills contacted her, then living with her sister, Alice, in Monroeville, Alabama, and began a friendship that saw the sisters inviting Mills to move into the house next door. For nearly two years Mills spent time with them, and Lee finally gave her permission to write and publish this story, which offers an unprecedented insight into the woman who wrote one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and then promptly fell silent.

  • Caitlin Luetger 7:00 pm on 2015/05/06 Permalink
    Tags: classic books, , , , , the great gatsby   

    5 Classic Books You Need To Reread After High School 

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    So many of the books we read in high school get an undeservedly bad rap. It’s not that they’re boring stories or poorly written, but the fact that they were assigned reading that made them unappealing. (“Ew, homework.”) Maybe you didn’t understand the stories at the time but painstakingly made your way through them—or maybe you just skimmed the SparkNotes. Either way, it’s time to give these five must-read classics a second chance.

    The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald
    As a high school sophomore, you may have been tantalized by the flashy parties and c’est la vie attitude the characters had toward day drinking and adulterous relationships. Yearning for the Gatsby lifestyle, you probably decided that one day you’d move to New York City, impress your true love with your finest silk shirt collection, and spend every night hosting lavish parties. Now that you’re older and have spent some time in the real world, you’ll be amazed at how differently the story reads. While the love triangles and glitz may have been enough to entertain your teenage self, your adult self will probably be a little bit more interested in exploring the cracked morality and rigid social hierarchies your English teacher was always rambling on about in class.

    The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    The biggest complaint against The Scarlet Letter tends to be its stiff Victorian style—though the drama (OH THE DRAMA) between Hester Pryn, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale may have intrigued you enough to soldier through. Who can resist such an unfortunate love triangle? As an adult, you’re more likely to be taken by the terrifying differences and even-more-terrifying similarities between the way women’s sexuality was treated then, and the way it’s treated in contemporary society. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of having made it through a Victorian novel as a grownup!

    Of Mice and Men, by George Steinbeck
    Another story of the American Dream may that not have intrigued you as a teen, though the deep and caring relationships between the main characters may have impacted the way you viewed friendships—and George’s predicament surely moved you. As an adult you’ll have an even deeper understanding of the major themes, centered on relationships and the loss of life and dreams, likely having experienced something similar (though hopefully far less tragic) in your own adult life. And as with The Scarlet Letter, you’ll likely spend a little more time questioning the representation of women in historical literature.

    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Whether you grew up in a small southern town or a northern metropolitan area, you probably related to and empathized with Scout’s dislike for school. And while you might not have fully grasped the severe implications of Tom Robinson’s case, you admired the kindhearted nature and good will of Atticus Finch. You may have even enjoyed the story, despite it being a required read. So why should you reread To Kill a Mockingbird? For starters, everything about this book is relevant in 2015, a year marked by ongoing discussions of race and rape culture. And not only will revisiting this story make you fall in love with Atticus Finch all over again, it will get you ready for sequel Go Set a Watchman, which will be hitting shelves later this year.

    The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
    Reading a coming-of-age story as a teen makes a lot of sense. Regardless of your own experiences, you probably identified and sympathized with Holden Caulfield. You were misunderstood, too, and making your way toward an uncertain future! His story helps you put your own life into perspective, and allowed you to satisfyingly dismiss other people as being boring, insecure, and phony. But now that you’ve reached that future age toward which you were once so apathetic, the way you view Mr. Caulfield may come as a bit of a shock. While you’ve grown up, matured, and accepted responsibility in life, he’s stayed constant in his refusal to grow up. But coming-of-age stories at any age force you to reassess your own path and reflect on where you’ve come from versus where you’re headed. And that’s why we’ll always need Holden.

    What was your favorite required read from high school? 

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