Ten Things You Don’t Know About Your Favorite Books and Authors
via Thought Catalog
1. Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita was turned down by 5 publishers. So controversial was the subject matter (in which an adult man falls obsessively in love with a tween girl) that Nabokov himself planned to publish it under a pseudonym. But the name on the front cover, it turned out, was the least of Nabokov’s problems. Though publishers Viking, Simon & Schuster, New Directions, Farrar, Straus, and Doubleday all agreed the manuscript for Lolita had the makings of a masterpiece, none were brave enough to take on the public uproar that might ensue once readers got a look at the finished book.
Nabokov finally convinced a French publisher of dubious reputation, Olympia Press, to print his tragicomic ode to American mores, inappropriate love, and obsession. When it first appeared in 1955, Lolita met with little public condemnation and, by 1958, became the first novel since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks. It is now widely considered one of the greatest books of all time and appears on “best of” lists like Time Magazine’s 10 Greatest Books of All Time, and Modern Library’s 100 Greatest Novels.
2. Leonard Cohen’s best known song, “Alexandra Leaving” is directly adapted from a poem written in Greek. C.P. Cavafy’s 1911 poem, “The God Abandons Anthony.” It’s about the ancient Roman general Marc Antony’s final moments in the city of Alexandria, which he had conquered and ruled and which he is about to lose. As he comes to the realization that his life is ending, he also realizes that his favorite god, Bacchus, has left him. Cohen adapted the poem by turning Alexandria, Egypt into a woman named Alexandra who is leaving her lover.
Many of the themes and lines in Cohen’s song are either associative with the poem or taken directly from it. Cohen’s line “As someone long prepared for this to happen, Go firmly to the window. Drink it in.” comes from the poem’s lines “approach the window with firm step, and with emotion, but not with the entreaties and complaints of the coward”. The overall mood of both the poem and song is one of bravery and resignation at a great loss.
3. Ray Bradbury, best known for science fiction novels, wrote the 1956 screenplay for the movie version of Moby Dick. Bradbury was not generally a fan of writing screenplays, but he WAS a fan of the film’s director, John Huston and so agreed to give the script for one of the great American novels a shot. Bradbury spent 8 months working on it in Ireland, watched by the notoriously difficult Huston. At some point he found himself so immersed in the story that he felt as though he was author Herman Mellville. As Bradbury tells it: “I got out of bed one morning in London, looked in the mirror, and said, ‘I am Herman Melville!’ I sat down at the typewriter, and in eight hours of passionate, red-hot writing, I finished the screenplay of Moby Dick, and I ran across London, I threw the script in John Huston’s lap, and said, ‘There! It’s done!’ He read it and said, ‘My god, what happened?’ I said, ‘behold: Herman Melville.” The Bradbury Script was recently made available for sale in bookstores and on Amazon.
4. Beloved children’s author Roald Dahl not only wrote James and the Giant Peach and Matilda, but he wrote the screenplay for a James Bond movie. Believe it or not, Dahl took over from screenwriter Harold Jack Bloom and finished the script for 1967’s You Only Live Twice. Dahl also made an attempt at scripting the movie version of his own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but had difficulty meeting deadlines. The movie was eventually given to a different writer and produced as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
5. The Best-selling novel of all time is Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The early 17th-century classic has sold over 500,000 copies…and counting. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, comes in as the second best-selling novel of all time, with somewhere over 200,000 copies sold. In the non-novel category (some call them fiction, some call them truth and I’m not touching that argument), The Bible, The Qur’an, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung are bestsellers.