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What The Great Gatsby Was Almost Named

trimalchio-fitzgerald

This comes from the publisher’s afterword in my edition of The Great Gatsby.

Awesome insight into Fitzgerald’s thought process behind naming the novel:

Fitzgerald was never satisfied with The Great Gatsby as the title. The early working title was “Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires”; other titles that he considered were “Trimalchio in West Egg,” “Trimalchio,” “On the Road to West Egg,” “Gold-hatted Gatsby,” and “The High-bouncing Lover.” The last two come from the epigraph poem by Fitzgerald, which he attributed to Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, a character in This Side of Paradise, his first novel. Trimalchio was the lavish host in The Satyricon, a Latin work by Petronius. On 19 March 1925, three weeks before publication, Fitzgerald cabled Maxwell Perkins: CRAZY ABOUT TITLE UNDER THE RED WHITE AND BLUE STOP WHART WOULD DELAY BE. By then it was too late. And it is too late now to re-title a classic novel.

Obviously, we have the benefit of nearly 90 years of hindsight. But can you imagine The Great Gatsby being named anything other than The Great Gatsby?

Like, what if Moby Dick was called Billy Joe? You know, a whale named Billy Joe. Doesn’t that just seem ridiculous?

But, just for kicks and giggles, let’s go through the other titles Fitzgerald considered:

Among The Ash Heaps and Millionaires: Too wordy. Too literal, as well. The “ash heaps” line makes me think the worst comes to Gatsby before I even read the book.

Trimalchio in West Egg: As mentioned in the blurb above, “Trimalchio” is a character in a latin work of fiction. Too obscure, though?

Trimalchio: Again, too obscure, I think.

On The Road To West Egg: Why keep mentioning “West Egg” in these titles? Without a point of reference—the book itself—how would anyone even know what West Egg is? Or should they? This also feels like a Kerouac-meets-Fitzgerald kind of title.

Gold-Hatted Gatsby: I like the fact that this version actually includes Gatsby’s name. You gotta include Gatsby in the title, right? Not sure why, but the “gold-hatted” part seems a little too much though.

The High Bouncing Lover: No. Absolutely not. No. No. No. No. Thank God this classic novel was never named The High Bouncing Lover. Can you imagine? I understand there’s a reference to that in the fake epigraph, and I’m glad it stayed there. Terrible title.

But what about the suggested title from Fitzgerald’s telegram—Under The Red, White, and Blue? It’s definitely the most intriguing non-title on this list, but what does it mean? Is it a poke at the fraudulence and fickleness of chasing the American Dream?

Interesting list.

But I’m just fine with The Great Gatsby. It’s so perfect. One word—“great”—says everything you need to know about the man and the myth of Gatsby the character.

If you read the title with a bit of sarcasm in your voice, I think you’re on to something with regards to how Fitzgerald viewed the “greatness” of his main character in this novel.

But, seriously, let’s get back to The High Bouncing Lover. Would any of you read a novel with that name?

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brandon #

    Not at work…

    Like

    December 4, 2012
    • Yes, I’m guessing “The High Bouncing Lover” would be NSFW reading.

      Like

      December 4, 2012
  2. I’d wait until a book-themed blog reviewed it.

    Like

    December 4, 2012
  3. Dominick Sabalos #

    It’s true that a book called The High Bouncing Lover probably wouldn’t have been very high on my to-read list – but then it took me a long time to get around to Gatsby as it is, so (assuming THBL enjoyed the same critical acclaim, reputation, etc) would it have made a difference?

    If retitling classic novels were for some reason my day job, I favour

    Friends Don’t Let Friends

    Like

    December 4, 2012
  4. I most definitively would not read a book titled “The High Bouncing Lover” (then again the choice to read The Great Gatsby wasn’t my own, go english class) but to have it titled as such seems ridiculous. I can’t imagine the book being titled anything else, and like you I agree that for it to be titled The Great Gatsby is entirely fitting to the novel.

    Like

    December 4, 2012
  5. We just talked about this in my American Lit class, and no! I can’t imagine The Great Gatsby as anything other than The Great Gatsby. But it is fun to try. : )

    Like

    December 4, 2012
  6. I agree that The Great Gatsby is definitely the best name for the novel. It is a stage name a magician might call themselves and what is Gatsby if not an illusionist? Thank god it wasn’t called The High Bouncing Lover!

    Like

    December 5, 2012
  7. I couldn’t picture “The Great Gatsby” with another title, but then maybe that is just because that is what it is known as. I wonder if we would be having a similar conversation if it had been called “The High Bouncing Lover” after all?

    Like

    December 5, 2012
  8. If Scott Frizgerald had “The High Bouncing Lover” as one of his choices for a title, then surely J. K Rowling also had title options more appealing than “The Casual Vacancy”… Question is: what pushed her to choosing that title, and what dissuaded Fitzgerald to choosing “The High Bouncing Lover”?

    Like

    December 5, 2012
  9. Enjoyed this. Made me laugh. I’ve often wondered how on earth any other name (especially the ones in the “ash heap” of history now) could have worked. The Great Gatsby is so indelibly tied into the book and also the canon of 20th-century literature…it says so much…means so much. To me it’s almost painful to consider the alternatives!

    Like

    February 15, 2017

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Looking Back At The Great Gatsby | 101 Books
  2. Names and Titles: a writer’s thoughts on choosing them well | By Word of Beth

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