Skip to content
Advertisements

What Classic Novels Were Almost Called

Mental Floss—a stellar website if you’ve never been, by the way—recently listed what some famous classic novels were almost called.

I found the list fascinating—it’s a literary “what might have been,” and it makes me wonder how the fate of these books might have changed if the original title had stuck.

Some examples:

  • The Great Gatsby had all sort of titles including, Trimalchio in West Egg; Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires; On the Road to West Egg; Under the Red, White, and Blue; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and The High-Bouncing Lover.
 Did I read that last one correctly? The High-Bouncing Lover? What the…? Just goes to show that even the most celebrated authors don’t knock it out of the park on their first try. It’s a process.
  • 1984 was almost called The Last Man in Europe had Orwell’s publisher not intervened. That title sounds more apocalyptic than dystopian. Good move by the publisher.
  • Atlas Shrugged was referred to by Ayn Rand as The Strike for a long time before it was published. According to Mental Floss, she felt that the title gave too much away and her husband suggested Atlas Shrugged.
  • Bram Stoker called his famous novel The Dead Un-Dead before he changed it to Dracula. What a horrible title that would’ve been.
  • Catch 22 was originally titled Catch 11, but it was changed to avoid confusion with the original Ocean’s Eleven movie, which was new in theaters at the time. He chose 22 because it was 11 doubled.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird could’ve been known as Atticus if Harper Lee hadn’t changed the title. She thought it focused too much on one character, although, let’s be honest, Atticus is the star.
  • Joyce’s Dubliners could’ve been more awkwardly titled Ulysses in Dublin. The novel included characters who would reappear in Ulysses when it was published a few years later.

What would the literary landscape had been like if 1984 was known as The Last Man In Europe? Or To Kill A Mockingbird had been named Atticus?

Crazy to think about, isn’t it? Head over to Mental Floss to see a few other “what might have been” titles.

Advertisements
19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Some of them obviously think you can just pick a book at random without any inkling of what it is about. I guess some authors were even lucky that some of us pick a book out of boredome to fill our lonely isolation,or some ,looking out for ideas to pick out. And then infact, some are real bookwarm. But to what percentage is each of the cartegory?

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  2. I like the name The Last Man in Europe, maybe that’ll be the title of my great novel if I ever have any inkling to write one. I’ll have to see how I feel about it once I read 1984 though. (And full disclaimer my favorite novel growing up was called The Only Alien on the Planet – not science fiction.)

    Like

    June 19, 2012
    • What’s it about…the alien on the planet book?

      Like

      June 19, 2012
  3. I’ve also read that Heller wanted to call his novel Catch-18, but he and his editor realized that Leon Uris had published a novel not long before called Mila 18. They then went through a bunch of others, but only 22 sounded funny enough to work.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  4. I knew that about Catch-22, and I’m so glad he changed it. Catch-11 doesn’t sound nearly as good.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  5. Is it possible that the title is memorable because the book is popular? Recall what Raymond Chandler said, “A good title is the title of a successful book.”

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  6. I love posts like this! It’s so interesting to see what might have been. One can’t help but wonder if these books would be the same with something as simple as a title change.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  7. wow.. That’s really interesting .. 1984 is better off as 1984 . That way it has more mystery to it 🙂

    Like

    June 19, 2012
    • Since it is now 2012, the title 1984 seems a little silly. I associate it with the introduction of the Macintosh computer and that impressive Super Bowl commercial. Is it a historical novel depicting a future that never occurred? Here in the United States we have yet to achieve the society depicted in 1984 but we’ve got a political party that might want to go back to 1984 and try again for complete domination and degradation.

      Like

      June 19, 2012
      • It may not have occurred in USA but certain countries around the world have in fact surpassed the conditions described in 1984 and achieved new levels of horror.. But yes, as you say “.. title is memorable because the book is popular..” . Had it been named something else, may be that would have stuck with us .. 🙂

        Like

        June 19, 2012
  8. Very interesting… I love to read, but haven’t ventured too far into the reading world. The only one I had heard about is Dracula.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  9. “The high-bouncing lover” is actually a reference to an analogy made in the text of The Great Gatsby. Gatsby being, of course, the lover who bounces high to catch Daisy’s eye.

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  10. “The High-Bouncing Lover” would be a great sell to grade 11 students when introducing the novel…

    Like

    June 19, 2012
  11. Great post. And on a related note, Margaret Mitchell’s most famous heroine was named Pansy in one of the original drafts of “Gone With the Wind.” It wasn’t until later that one of her friends read it over and said the character was too strong to have a name like “Pansy”. She needed a name that conveyed her strength. And thus she became SCARLETT. True story. 🙂

    Like

    June 24, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Great Stuff on the Writers’ Blogs, June 19, 2012 « cochisewriters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: