Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Titles That Weren’t

As almost everyone knows, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Even knowing that (and knowing it well), if someone were to try to tantalize you with a book called Something That Happened, what would you think? Well, you probably wouldn’t think about the literary mastery of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Something That Happened just lacks that essential snap, does it not?

There are more examples of classic books with original titles that missed the mark. Many of them.

The working title of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions and Frances Hodgson Burnett magical children’s classic The Secret Garden was originally entitled Mistress Mary. (“Mistress Mary Quite Contrary...” Any connection?)

Good old Philip Roth apparently had not one but three preferred titles for the book that would become Portnoy’s Complaint, none of them good: The Jewboy, Wacking Off, or A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis. (Clearly, the editor responsible for the name change should be thanked for that one. If nothing else, one can’t imagine Wacking Off would have had quite the same panache on the shelf.)

The heavy lifting here was done by the Huffington Post who dug up 24 classic books that ended up with titles mostly pretty far from the ones originally intended. You can see all of them here.



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