9 Things You Didn’t Know About The Great Gatsby

great-gatsby-the-us-import-ed-Today marks 90 years since the release of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel The Great Gatsby.

To celebrate, we’ve done some digging and found a few quirky facts about the novel many regard as the quintessential ‘Great American Novel’.

1. It wasn’t always going to be called The Great Gatsby

At one time or another, all of these were in consideration: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; Trimalchio; Trimalchio in West Egg; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby and The High-Bouncing Lover.

2. The book was initially a commercial flop…

At the time of his death in 1940, Fitzgerald claimed to have made just $4,000 off the novel, and died believing that his work was doomed to be forgotten and left behind by time and regretted Gatsby.

The New York Times’ obit on Fitzgerald even cited the novel as a sign he never reached his full potential.

3. …and Fitzgerald thought he knew why

Fitzgerald was convinced that the reason the book wasn’t a rousing success was because Gatsby didn’t have a single admirable female character—and, at the time, the majority of people reading novels were women.

He also thought that the title, which was only “fair,” resulted in poor sales.

4. Meyer Wolfshiem was based on a real person

Meyer Wolfshiem is a very thinly-veiled reference to Arnold Rothstein, the man behind The Black Sox Scandal, where eight Chicago White Sox players were accused of intentionally losing the 1919 world series in exchange for money from gamblers.

If the similar names didn’t give it away, the fact that Wolfshiem is said to have fixed the World Series probably did.

5. Fitzgerald was often his own inspiration

The Great Gatsby opens with a famous epigraph by the poet Thomas Parke D’Invilliers: “Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her/ If you can bounce high, bounce for her too/ Till she cry, “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover / I must have you!” Guess what? He doesn’t exist!

The character was a creation of Fitzgerald’s in This Side of Paradise.

6. Fitzgerald was a horrible speller

The first draft of The Great Gatsby was riddled with spelling errors, but it was hardly a surprise to his editors. F. Scott Fitzgerald was famously deplorable speller.

So bad was he, in fact, that American literary critic Edmund Wilson called an early draft of This Side of Paradise “one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published.”

7. Fitzgerald rewrote the novel because he was so enamoured with the cover design

Francis Cugat designed the now classic cover art for the novel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald was just as impressed with its haunting imagery as readers have been; the design has become a mainstay in the popular consciousness.

Fitzgerald was so taken with it that he rewrote the novel to place more emphasis on the symbol of the eyes, making T.J. Eckleburg’s business a larger motif of the work.

8. Fitzgerald never expanded on the character of Jay Gatsby outside of the novel

Fitzgerald loved to create discussion around his work, and despite the lukewarm response upon it’s release, he never expanded on Gatsby’s race or religion beyond the novel’s pages. Gatsby himself is open to a number of interpretations.

Although many believe that Jay Gatsby was Jewish (a Jewish associate of Meyer Wolfsheims, James Gatz, is believed to have been a major inspiration), some scholars have argued that Jay Gatsby was black.

9. WWII made The Great Gatsby a household name

At the time of his death, Gatsby’s publisher still had copies of the book in its warehouse—and that was from a second printing of just 3000 books. Fitzgerald’s works saw a revival in 1945. Helping in that revival: 150,000 copies of Gatsby were sent to Americans serving in WWII.

Once the war ended, the book became a staple of high school English lit curricula, and the novel remained a commercial success. By 1960, the book steadily sold 50,000 copies each year, and today it has sold over 30 million copies.


the-great-gatsbyThe Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The lavish and glorious Baz Luhrmann film tie-in edition of The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and extravagent lifestyle of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby is a self-made man famed for his decadent, champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island’s bright and beautiful, he longs only for Daisy Buchanan.

Gatsby pursues his dream and Nick Carraway is drawn into Gatsby’s circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy.

Grab a copy of The Great Gatsby here

NEWS: Remains in Madrid Believed to Be Those of Don Quixote author Cervantes

cervantes_1MADRID — In a discovery that could create a new venue for literary pilgrims, Spanish investigators said on Tuesday that they might have located part of the remains of Cervantes, whose novel “Don Quixote” has enthralled readers over centuries with stories of its eponymous knight and his servant, Sancho Panza.

Cervantes, often lauded as having written the first modern novel, died in 1616 after requesting burial in a convent in Madrid where, for almost a year, investigators have been searching the subsoil for bones that they now believe to include some of the author’s …

Click here to read more from New York Times


don-quixoteDon Quixote
By: Miguel De Cervantes, Edith Grossmann (Translator)

Widely regarded as the world’s first modern novel, and one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written, Don Quixote chronicles the famous picaresque adventures of the noble knight-errant Don Quixote de La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain. Unless you read Spanish, you’ve never read Don Quixote.

Grab a copy of Don Quixote here

 

TIME Magazine’s 10 Greatest Books of All-Time

A few years ago TIME magazine asked 125 of the world’s most celebrated writers to name their Top 10 novels of all time. No doubt after the resignations of many, many unpaid interns, they combined all these lists to make the ultimate Top 10 list.

We thought we’d share it with you. We’d like a few more women on there but hey, isn’t that always the way.

Do you agree with the picks? Did your favourite book mis the cut? Tell us in the comments section below.


middlemarch10. Middlemarch
by George Eliot

George Eliot’s most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community.

Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfillment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past.

As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as ‘one of the few English novels written for adult people’.

Grab a copy of Middlemarch here


the-steppe-and-other-stories-1887-919. The Steppe and Other Stories
by Anton Chekov

The Steppe established Chekov’s reputation. It is the simple yet unforgettable tale of a young boy’s journey to a new school in Kiev, travelling through majestic landscapes towards an unknown life. Gusev depicts an ocean voyage, where a man dies and is thrown to sharks, and the sea takes on a terrifying, primeval power. In The Kiss a shy soldier is kissed by mistake in a darkened room; in A Dreary Story a man reaches the end of his life and questions its worth; and in The Duel two men’s enmity ends in farce.

Grab a copy of The Steppe and Other Stories here


in-search-of-lost-time-vol-1-swann-s-way8. In Search of Lost Time Vol 1: Swann’s Way
by Marcel Proust

The definitive translation of the greatest French novel of the twentieth century

In the opening volume of Proust’s great novel, the narrator travels backwards in time in order to tell the story of a love affair that had taken place before his own birth. Swann’s jealous love for Odette provides a prophetic model of the narrator’s own relationships. All Proust’s great themes – time and memory, love and loss, art and the artistic vocation – are here in kernel form.

Grab a copy of In Search of Lost Time Vol 1: Swann’s Way here


9780099541530 (1)7. The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s glittering Jazz Age masterpiece

Jay Gatsby is a self-made man, famed for his decadent champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island’s bright and beautiful, Gatsby longs only for Daisy Buchanan. In shimmering prose, Fitzgerald shows Gatsby pursue his dream to its tragic conclusion. The Great Gatsby is an elegiac and exquisite portrait of the American Dream.

Grab a copy of The Great Gatsby here


97800079023476. Hamlet
by William Shakespeare

Considered one of Shakespeare’s most rich and enduring plays, the depiction of its hero Hamlet as he vows to avenge the murder of his father by his brother Claudius is both powerful and complex. As Hamlet tries to find out the truth of the situation, his troubled relationship with his mother comes to the fore, as do the paradoxes in his personality. A play of carefully crafted conflict and tragedy, Shakespeare’s intricate dialogue continues to fascinate audiences to this day.

Grab a copy of Hamlet here


9780099572978 (1)5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
by Mark Twain

It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them’

Huck Finn spits, swears, smokes a pipe and never goes to school. With his too-big clothes and battered straw hat, Huck is in need of ‘civilising’, and the Widow Douglas is determined to take him in hand. And wouldn’t you know, Huck’s no-good Pap is also after him and he locks Huck up in his cabin in the woods. But Huck won’t stand too much of this, and after a daring escape, he takes off down the Mississppi on a raft with an runaway slave called Jim. But plenty of dangers wait for them along the river – will they survive and win their freedom?

Grab a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn here


97801410234964. Lolita
by Vladimir Nabocov

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, who he’ll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? …Or is he all of these?

Grab a copy of Lolita here


war-and-peace3. War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s enthralling epic depicts Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on the lives of those caught up in the conflict. He creates some of the most vital and involving characters in literature as he follows the rise and fall of families in St Petersburg and Moscow who are linked by their personal and political relationships. His heroes are the thoughtful yet impulsive Pierre Bezukhov, his ambitious friend, Prince Andrei, and the woman who becomes indispensable to both of them, the enchanting Natasha Rostov.

Grab a copy of War and Peace here


97818474932242. Madam Bovary
by Gustave Flaubert

‘It has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone.’ Henry James

Beautiful Emma Rouault yearns for the life of wealth, passion and romance she has encountered in popular sentimental fiction, and when her doctor, the well-meaning but awkward and unremarkable Charles Bovary, begins to pay her attention, she imagines that she may be granted her wish. However, after their marriage, Emma soon becomes frustrated with the boredom of provincial life and finds herself seeking escape and contemplating adultery.

As Emma’s efforts to make a reality of her fantasies become more dangerous, both she and those around her must face the shattering consequences of her actions. Causing widespread scandal when it was published in 1857, Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece and one of the landmark works of nineteenth-century realist fiction.

Grab a copy of Madam Bovary here


anna-karenina1. Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is a novel of unparalleled richness and complexity, set against the backdrop of Russian high society. Tolstoy charts the course of the doomed love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer who pursues Anna after becoming infatuated with her at a ball.

Although she initially resists his charms Anna eventually succumbs, falling passionately in love and setting in motion a chain of events that lead to her downfall. In this extraordinary novel, Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, while evoking a love so strong that those who experience it are prepared to die for it.

Grab a copy of Anna Karenina here

Why do I always forget to mention Thomas Hardy?

John Purcell reflects on the frustrations of drowning in honey.

It occurs to me that I never mention Thomas Hardy. When I rattle off the authors I love, my mind runs to George Eliot, George Meredith, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens quite easily and then I realise I have mentioned only nineteenth English authors and I quickly add Christina Stead, Willa Cather and I may if I have time throw in Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway. And there I stop. I know I have said both too much and not enough.

While I pause for breath I remember Clarissa and think of Samuel Richardson, Tom Jones and think of Henry Fielding. The name Richardson makes me think of Maurice Guest and I find myself moving from Henry Handel Richardson to George Johnston and Xavier Herbert. And then I realise that I haven’t been paying attention to the conversation I have been engaged in.

tess-of-the-d-urbervillesAnd I find myself exhausted. Because it occurs to me that although I have been afforded the opportunity to read some of the finest writers of the last few centuries I cannot easily share or express the enjoyments and lessons of this reading in any meaningful way. I can enthuse – I have a passionate relationship with literature. I can list the titles and authors one should read – I have a good memory for these things. I can quote or read a passage aloud – I have noted down many impressive scenes and quips. And I can encourage others to read as I have read – I have a teacher’s zeal. And in doing these things I quickly become a bore to myself and to others.

In the end there is always silence and bitterness. And I turn away.

And suddenly there he is, Mr Thomas Hardy. He stands so close beside me I forget he is there.

However, by then the moment has passed. The opportunity to mention him has gone.

But I am secretly pleased about this really. Because he doesn’t fit in with the other great names. He is an outsider amongst outsiders. And I know that those who really appreciate him, those millions who have devoured all of his works and taken him into themselves probably discovered him on their own and at the right time – I have learnt that to recommend Hardy is to damn him.

I’ve been told Hardy is too dark. That he is humourless. Dull, unrealistic, pessimistic and cruel. And in these moments I wonder if they have been reading someone else. So I now forget to recommend him.

When I first read Hardy much of the world’s ugly scaffolding fell away. In Return of the Native, Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge and the others it was his great love of nature and humanity and the beauty each possesses which shone brightest for me. And though the shadows this bright love cast are deep and very dark they only serve to accentuate the good, the worthy, the beautiful.

So where some see pessimism I see great optimism. Hardy asks us to cut through the fog of day to day life so we may recognise and cherish what is good in our environment, in others and in ourselves.

So I won’t recommend Thomas Hardy to you. I will just point out that he is there on the shelf ready to be read. When you are ready, that is.

Taken by John’s love of the classics? Find more classics he loves here

Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Final Round of Voting

There is only one more week of voting left to decide who is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

This is the longlist as voted by you, congratulations to all the novelists for making it onto this extraordinary list.

But the job isn’t finished. We need your final vote to decide the order of the top 50.

Vote for all your favourite authors, and spread the word, tell your friends and family to get voting! The poll closes 5pm Saturday.

Next week we’ll announce the Top 50 as voted by you and decide who, in 2014, is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

 

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 5

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

This is it folks. Your last chance to push your favourite authors into next week’s final round of voting. Last year’s winner Kate Morton is also in this heat!

Next week we’ll have the top 100 authors from all the heats for you to vote for!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 4

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Heat 4 is full of some huge names and exciting newcomers. Who will you vote for?

Thanks to everyone who has voted so far, the response has been incredible! And thanks to all the wonderful authors and publishers for spreading the word!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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