The act of reading is a lonely endeavor, but after you take your eyes off the page, you can share your experience with others.
The act of reading is a seemingly lonely endeavor, but after you finish each book and take your eyes off the page, it becomes a social and shareable experience. Just like watching a TV show is more fun and interesting if you’re tweeting and reading everyone’s jokes and reactions about what’s happening, the reading experience is nurtured by all the conversations you later have about the book. That’s because everybody has their own interpretation of the stories they read, and when you hear one that is wildly different from yours, the joy you felt while reading a book grows even more. The best thing you can do to enjoy that even more is to look for new things to learn about your favorite books and authors and share those things with your nearest bookworm. To help you with that, here are five facts that will make you feel closer to some of the most iconic authors.
Nabokov didn’t want depictions of little girls on Lolita’s book covers.
Few novels are as controversial as Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. While the story itself is scandalous, one of its main controversies focuses on the book covers, which have been images of seductive young girls since Stanley Kubrick adapted the story into a film in 1962. Apparently, publishers did not see the irony in sexualizing a child to publicize a book about sexual abuse and pedophilia. Initially, Nabovok was well aware of that possibility, and after the first edition of the book in 1955, he wrote to his publisher that he wanted abstract images for the cover, like pure colors and melting clouds: “There is one subject which I am emphatically opposed to: any kind of representation of a little girl.” Sadly, after Kubrick’s adaptation and the novel’s success, Nabokov became too busy to complain about it again.
Marcel Proust and James Joyce met once, and it wasn’t great.
Because of Proust’s success and Joyce’s fame, everyone had high hopes for such an encounter. The two brilliant minds who wrote several masterpieces and had such interesting and eccentric personalities were meant to have an epic conversation, but it just didn’t happen. Several sources give different accounts about what happened that night in 1922, but all of them affirm that the meeting was more or less a failure, and that none of them had read each other’s books. It happened during a party at the Majestic Hotel, and while the people that surrounded them expected a unique clash of brilliance, both authors complained about their aging bodies: daily headaches, bad sight, and stomach problems. Fascinating, right? According to Joyce himself, the brief talk “was impossible.”
Edgar Allan Poe was involved in a sex scandal.
Edgar Allan Poe’s fame was tainted with scandal. He became a literary celebrity when he published “The Raven” in 1845, but only a year after that, a sex scandal worthy of today’s gossip magazines and tabloids made him an outcast. He met another literary star, Fanny Osgood, after he publicly complimented her as a poet. Then they started flirting, apparently with little discretion. Later, a messy letter exchange started between his wife (and cousin) Virginia and Elizabeth Ellet, who had an unreciprocated crush on him. Through those anonymous letters, Ellet told Virginia about the affair, which only lead to messier exchanges that involved the pregnant Fanny, her husband Samuel Osgood, and Ellet’s brother (who challenged Poe to a duel for disrespecting his sister). The scandal didn’t last long because some time later Virginia died. As Virginia stated in her deathbed, Ellet's meddling with her marriage "murdered her," and Poe died two years later, tormented by the untimely death of his wife.
Virginia Woolf tricked the British naval fleet.
In 1910, Virginia Woolf and other writers and artists dressed up as Abyssinian princes, with beards and all, to enter the British naval fleet. According to a letter written by Horace de Vere Cole, the whole thing was hilarious and successful. They fooled an admiral and the whole crew, as two of them claimed to be guides from the Foreign Office who translated the fake and nonsensical language they were all speaking (trying to make it sound like Swahili). Dinner was served (and rejected), African flags were raised, and beards didn’t fall off. In the letter, Cole told a friend that he could barely contain his laughter as he introduced the princes giving previously made-up names.
Just like you can come to love a book that you used to hate, your perception of a story that you thought you understood perfectly can turn on its head after you discover something about the most human, flawed, or ludicrous side of its author. That’s why all readers are lucky: we can never run out of books, and the books we’ve read can transform before our eyes with just one fact.
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