The Book List: Alternative titles F Scott Fitzgerald envisioned for “The Great Gatsby” | The independent


Among the heaps of ashes and the millionaires
Trimalchio in West Egg
On the road to West Egg
Under the red, the white and the blue
Golden Hat Gatsby
The bouncing lover

Choosing a title for your newly completed masterpiece can be a tricky process.

F Scott Fitzgerald came up with all of the above ideas before finally settling on the famous one, largely because of his editor Max Perkins (although he still grumbled after it was published).

And of course, he wasn’t alone. Ernest Hemingway played with I committed fornication but it was in another country, and Besides the girl died before settling wisely A farewell to arms.

He also considered:

Love in war
Grief for pleasure
Belated wisdom
If you gotta love
Enough people and time
Praise of his mistress
Every night and everything
Injuries and other causes
The retreat from Italy
Like the others are
Love is a fervent fire
Lit without desire
A world to see
Progress of the Patriots
The Grand Tour
The Italian trip
The world room
Disorder and early grief
An Italian Chronicle
The time exchanged
Death once dead
Those who get shot
The Italian experience
Love in Italy
Love in war
Sentimental education
The education of the flesh
Carnal education
The sentimental education of Frederick Henry
Thing that was
Nights and forever
In another country
Increased knowledge Grief
The particular treasure
Something happens to all of them
One thing for them all
Nothing better for a man
Time of war
The world room
One thing is for sure
The longhouse

So what’s the best way to choose a title?

You can try the ever popular Something’s Something approach – Midnight children, Schindler’s list, Homer’s daughter; equations such as the useful “number + name + ‘of’ + name” of author Andy Martin (for example Seven pillars of wisdom); and various random title generators (some are very specific, like the Malcolm Gladwell Book Builder which includes The Cheers Effect: How and Why Everyone Knows Your Name). even offers an automated way to check if your title is likely to be a bestseller, usually suggesting that books with slightly more abstract titles, like Agatha Christie’s Murder asleep, have the greatest chance of success.

Another way is to simply borrow the best bits of other people’s work, which is not only the way Aldous Huxley usually went, but can be turned into a Christmas quiz for the well-read. So where did these Huxley titles originally come from? (answers below):

After many summers the swan dies
Antique hay
Beyond the Bay of Mexico
The doors of perception
Without eyes in Gaza
Pilate jokingly
These sterile leaves

One problem with this method of choosing a title is that it requires you to be very well read (as Clive James observed, “Nowadays his book titles are more alive than his books”).

This is exactly what Huxley was. He had read everything and had even traveled with a half edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica to make sure he had something decent to read.

As luck would have it, there is a much easier way. Just open your collected works of Shakespeare and off we go, an approach that has also paid off for Huxley, who has certainly gone through his copies of Storm (Brave New World), Macbeth (Brief Candles), Hamlet (Deadly coils), and Henry IV Part 1 (Time must stop – a bit of a cheat, this one, for the actual quote from Hotspur’s death speech is “But thought is the slave of life and the fool of life; And time, which goes around the world, Must stop “).


Tithon by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
Bermuda by Andrew Marvell
The marriage of heaven and hell by William Blake
Samson Agonists by John Milton
Of the truth by Francis Bacon
The tables have turned by William Wordsworth

“A Book of Book Lists” by Alex Johnson, £ 7.99, British Library Publishing

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