Famous Epic Novels by the Numbers

atkins-bookshelf-booksThe creative folks at Daily Infographic toil endlessly to provide clever, visual interpretations of fascinating trivia or information. Fearlessly, they plundered a local library to determine how famous novels stack up — literally. The novella, they note, are works of fiction that generally have a word count between 20,000 and 50,000; a novel has between 50,000 and 110,000 words; an epic novel exceeds 110,000 words. Due to their bulk, epics are the item of choice when one has to raise their desktop computer screen. Here are famous novellas, novels, and epic novels by the numbers.

Ulysses by James Joyce: 265,222 (number of words)
Bleak House by Charles Dickens: 360,947
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: 418,053
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: 483,994
Les Miserable by Victor Hugo: 530,982
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: 561,304

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (4 books): 576,456
The Hobbit: 95,356
The Fellowship of the Ring: 187,790
The Two Towers: 156,198
The Return of the King: 137,115

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson: 25,204
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: 29,160
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 28,944
Animal Farm by George Orwell: 29,966

Read related posts: The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels
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The Most Influential People Who Never Lived
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For further reading: www.dailyinfographic.com/famous-literature-words-by-numbers-infographic

Random Fascinating Facts About Authors

atkins-bookshelf-triviaCelebrated romantic poet Lord Byron (known in his time as “a child of passion and the fool of fame”) had legions of adoring female fans. Often they would mail clippings of their hair as personal tokens of their admiration and affection. Byron wore his black hair, which was curly, short with a clump of curls in the front (known as “Byronic curls”). Not willing to part with his hair (excuse the pun) and not wanting to be known as “that bald romantic poet,” Byron simply cut the curly fur from his beloved Newfoundland, Boatswain, to mail back to some of his lovesick fans.

Unlike Tolstoy, John Steinbeck wrote out most of his novels in longhand by himself. In writing the novel that Steinbeck considered his magnum opus, East of Eden, the author went through 300 pencils. Published in 1952 by VIking Press, the books was 602 pages long. The author appears as a minor character in chapter 46.

The devoted wife of Leo Tolstoy, Sophia, wrote out in longhand her husband’s drafts of War and Peace — six times! Although it isn’t known how many pens or pencils she went through — it must have been considerable since the novel was published in 1868 in four octavo volumes running 1,872 pages. Can you say “carpal tunnel syndrome”?

Before Abercrombie & Fitch became a pricey clothing store in the late 1880s, it began in 1892 as a premiere outfitter of sporting goods, selling high-end hunting wear, fishing rods, tents, and shotguns. It was at one of their stores, that Ernest Hemingway bought a shotgun that he later used to commit suicide in his home in Ketchum, Idaho in 1961.

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For further reading: 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off by John Lloyed, et al, Norton (2013)

The Surprising Original Titles of Famous Novels

atkins-bookshelf-literatureIt is unimaginable to think that one of the novels considered as The Great American Novels, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was originally titled Trimalchio in West Egg. (Trimalchio — a wealthy, but very vulgar freedman — is a character from the famous satirical novel, Satyricon, by Petronius written in 1 A.D.) Thankfully Zelda, Fitzgerald’s wife, and legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins, convinced him to select The Great Gatsby as the final title, inspired by Alain-Fournier’s haunting Le Grand Meaulnes (Augustin Meaulnes, the protagonist, searches for his lost love, Yvonne de Galais). Below are some of the surprising original or working titles of famous novels that were changed because the author changed his or her mind or a talented editor stepped in to shape literary history. The original or working title is followed by the actual title.

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
by Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
by Harper Lee  (To Kill a Mockingbird)

All’s Well That Ends Well by Leo Tolstoy  (War and Peace)
Beauty from Ashes by W. Somerset Maugham  (Of Human Bondage)
Catch-18 by Joseph Heller  (Catch-22)

Dark House by William Faulkner  (Light in August)
The Eliots by Jane Austen  (Persuasion)

Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway  (The Sun Also Rises)
First Impressions by Jane Austen  (Pride and Prejudice)
The Kingdom by the Sea by Vladimir Nabokov  (Lolita)
The Last Man in Europe by George Orwell  (Nineteen Eighty-Four)
Pansy by Margaret Mitchell  (Gone with the Wind)

Something Happened by John Steinbeck  (Of Mice and Men)
Strangers From Within by William Golding  (Lord of the Flies)
Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie (And Then There Were None)
Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Jonathan Swift  (Gulliver’s Travels)
The Sea-Cook by Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island)
The War of the Ring
by JRR Tolkien  (The Lord of the Rings)

Read related posts: Who Are the Greatest Shakespeare Characters?
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For further reading: Brewer’s Curious Titles by Ian Crofton, Cassell (2002)
Now All We Need is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way by Andre Bernard, Norton (1996)


The Most Influential People Who Never Lived

atkins-bookshelf-cultureWe grew up with them and some were even childhood friends; we understand them, and hence love them or hate them; we quote them, we are inspired by them, we emulate them, we recognize their qualities in the people we meet in our daily lives. They are woven into the fabric of individual lives as well as the vast tapestry of world culture. But they never existed — at least not as living, breathing human beings. They were created by human beings, belonging to a particular epoch, but paradoxically transcend all time. They are the fictional characters, archetypes drawn from humanity, who never lived; they came into the world through novels, films, comics, plays, and television shows. Whether young or old, their influence has not waned — a testimony to their creators’ ability to study and distill the essence of humanity. As Time writer, Jessica Winter, observes, “These people and situations are nearly as immediate and urgent as our ‘real’ lives. We root for or against them, use them as inspirational models or cautionary tales, take the words of their mouths and use them as jokes or mantras. How blurry the line becomes between their worlds and ours is a measure of the artistry and craftsmenship that went into creating the characters.

To develop the list of the 100 most influential people who never lived, Time consulted its team of writers and editors. To reduce the list to a manageable size, the editors decided to set up some requirements: all individuals had to be human (no cartoons characters), no gods or divinities, and no religious figures. Rather than creating a single list, ranked from 1 to 100, the editors organized fictional characters into six discrete categories (shown below). The editors then invited readers of Time.com to comment on the list. The final list, like any list of this type, reflects the biases of the contributors that is sure to invite spirited debate; editor Kelly Knauer, explains the goal for the book: “Our hope for this book [is that] it will encourage close encounters with fascinating new characters, shake up dinner-table conversations and generally create a ruckus.” Bookshelf presents only the top five fictional characters in each of the six categories. Let the conversations and ensuing ruckus begin: 

King Arthur
Scarlett O’Hara
Hannibel Lecter
Norman Bates
Indiana Jones

Uncle Sam
Sherlock Holmes
The Good Samaritan

Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock
Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy
Benedick and Beatrice
Huckleberry Finn and Jim
Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins

Wonder Woman

Lucy Ricardo
The Little Tramp
Jo March
Homer Simpson
Rocky Balboa

Anna Karenina

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For further reading: The TIME 100 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by the editors of Time, Time (2013)

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter

atkins-bookshelf-literatureBack before witches had their own TV series and movie franchises, they were imprisoned and hanged. In the year 1692, in the sleepy town of Salem, Massachusetts, a group of children (aged 4 to 12) ratted out 140 adults from their community to their uptight Puritan church elders . Although the evidence was slim, by today’s standards, Judge John Hathorne who presided over the Salem Witch Trials sentenced the lot of warlocks and witches to prison sentences, and some a worse fate — death by hanging. Of the 140 prisoners, 19 were hanged and 13 died in prison. Although the witch trials were a dark chapter in the history of America, the Judge never repented for his role.

More than a century later, Nathaniel Hathorne, the future author of The Scarlet Letter (written in 1850), was born in Salem in 1804. Soon after Hathorne graduating from Bowdoin College in 1825, Hathorne, having learned of his great-grandfather’s role in the Salem Witch Trials, added a “w” to his name to distance himself from that shameful legacy. In a sense, it was the addition of the letter to his surname — his own personal scarlet letter —  that allowed the young author to disavow the former surname that was a badge of shame.

Read related post: Literary One-Hit Wonders
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For further reading: The Little Book of Big Mistakes by Ken Lytle and Katie Corcoran, Adams Media (2011)