The top ten: Original titles of novels
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 15 September 2013
Very few great novels would have been better with their early titles. I should report, though, that some people did not take this week's list seriously. The original title of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' was not 'Murder at Midnight', Michael Deacon. Nor, Tom Chivers, was 'Wuthering Heights' going to be called 'Captain Zapstar and the Death-Robots of Omnicron 19'.
1. The Man of Feeling Lucky Jim, by Kingsley Amis.
2. Strangers from Within In the care of Faber editor Charles Monteith, this emerged as Lord of the Flies, according to Faber editor Richard T Kelly.
3. Pop, girls etc The working title of High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby. Nominated by Robert Hutton.
4. Catch-18 The first chapter of my favourite novel was published in a magazine under this title, but it clashed with Leon Uris's Mila 18.
5. The Last Man in Europe A lot of nominations for Nineteen Eighty-Four.
6. Trimalchio in West Egg One of many horrible titles dithered over by F Scott Fitzgerald before he decided on The Great Gatsby.
7. The Kingdom by the Sea Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
8. Four-and-a-Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice Or Mein Kampf. Nominated by Daniel Hannan and Mark Wallace.
9. The Dead Undead Several nominations, including from David Tuck, for the working title of Bram Stoker's book, which became The Undead and then Dracula.
10. Tomorrow is Another Day Margaret Mitchell was just going to use the last line of Gone With the Wind.
Next week: Films panned as turkeys that are actually quite good
Coming soon: Great bands with terrible names. Send your suggestions (by 24 September), and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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