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

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

The Great Gatsby by ummmm… Baz F. Luhrmann (The Official Pre-Trailer Trailer Trailer)

To avoid exposing yourself as one of the five or six hundred people who were not forced to read The Great Gatsby at school when they were too young to understand it, read the book before you watch the film. Then you can join in on the discussion about whether the film did justice to the book. (Hint: it never does)

Buy Book Here

Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Paula McLain

author of The Paris Wife

Ten Terrifying Questions

——————————–

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents in 1970, my two sisters and I were sent off into a series of foster home placements. This was an incredibly transient way to grow up, and we switched schools a lot, though always stayed in public schools. At eighteen, when I aged out of the system, I went to a community college and embarked on a highly inefficient course of study. Nothing really inspired me until, at age 24, I stumbled into a creative writing class. Voila, I had found my passion.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I thought being a secretary was pretty appealing. I liked the reassuring clicking of typewriter keys, and liked what I imagined was a keen sense of order. At eighteen, I began working in a convalescent hospital, and thought I might be a nurse. I had watched a lot of soap operas featuring hospitals as glamorous places where one might meet a doctor husband. My convalescent hospital was decidedly unglamorous. When I was thirty, I was in graduate school studying poetry, and trying like crazy to be a poet—have a career and publish a book. I did accomplish that, though I ultimately stopped writing poetry along the way.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That the world is a terrifying place. I was afraid of everything at eighteen—and though because of my childhood trauma, I had good reason to be, it was also terribly limiting. It wasn’t until I left California in my Continue reading

Rebecca Lim, author of Mercy, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rebecca Lim,

author of Mercy,

Ten Terrifying Questions

——————–

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Singapore but raised and schooled in marvellous Melbourne, Australia. I speak a kind of terrible, pidgin Mandarin Chinese around my relatives, but I think and dream in English.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be a picture book writer and would hand deliver wonkily-drawn picture book manuscripts to the Melbourne offices of imprints that have slowly disappeared from Australia over the years (remember Methuen, anybody?).

At eighteen, all I knew was that I didn’t want to study Medicine (partly because everyone thought that would be an excellent career choice) but I did want a job that revolved around ideas, words and writing. So I picked Continue reading

What our customers think of Popular Penguins

One week down and three weeks to go in our fantastic Popular Penguin promotion and up for grabs are four Popular Penguin libraries. Yep, one set of 20 books of your choice are going off each week.

All the details are here. It is not too late to enter the competition.

Meanwhile, here are some comments from  some of our entrants so far. Having read through all of their wishlists, I reckon I should be curled up with one of those orange and cream beauties rather than writing this now! What a way to whet my appetite!

So the question Booktopia readers were asked was “which Popular Penguin book are you most looking forward to reading?” Continue reading

Ten Terrifying Questions on The Breaking of Eggs with Jim Powell

On the eve of his Australian publishing début,

we ask

Jim Powell

author of

The Breaking of Eggs

Ten Terrifying Questions

__________________________________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in London in May 1949 and grew up there. I left London more than 25 years ago, but I will always be a Londoner. I was lucky enough to have about as good an education as you can get – Charterhouse School and Cambridge University.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I have never not wanted to be a writer, if that makes sense! But I always thought I would do it later in life. Whether that was prescience, self-fulfilling prophesy or lack of confidence, I have no idea. At 12 I certainly wanted to be a pop star. At 18 I think I mostly wanted to be grown-up. At 30 I wanted to be a politician. Possibly I have now achieved the second of these ambitions.

3.    What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

More than anything, a belief in strongly-held beliefs. Some people base their lives on the rock of certainty; others on the rock of doubt. The longer I live, the more I am attracted to the rock of doubt. I think, and certainly hope, that this attitude is neither weak nor indecisive, and that an admission of ignorance is the Continue reading

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