I’m away this week, but still wanted to post something new, so I thought I’d offer some highlights from my 2017 literary-trivia book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.
Dorothy Parker willed her estate to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (who she had never met).
Jane Austen got the title of Pride and Prejudice from a line in Fanny Burney’s novel Cecilia.
The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” originally referred to the wealthy family in which Edith Wharton (nee Jones) grew up.
The Starbuck character in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick inspired the name of a certain coffee chain.
O. Henry coined the term “banana republic” (when on the lam in Latin America after being charged with embezzlement).
George Orwell popularized the term “cold war.”
Orwell was briefly Aldous Huxley’s student at England’s Eton school (years before they respectively authored two of the 20th century’s most famous dystopian novels: Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World).
The title of Huxley’s nonfiction book The Doors of Perception inspired the name of The Doors rock band.
Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died on nearly the same day in 1616.
The first modern novel? Not Cervantes’ Don Quixote, but perhaps Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji. She wrote it 1,000 years ago.
Isaac Asimov wrote and edited more than 500 books!
Agatha Christie’s greatest mystery? She disappeared for 10 days in 1926.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ancestors include Francis Scott Key (writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner” words) and Mary Surratt (who was executed for her part in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln).
Harriet Beecher Stowe (Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and Mark Twain were longtime neighbors in Hartford, Conn.
Twain was a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, comparing Anne to Alice (of Wonderland fame).
Richard Wright starred as his Native Son novel’s teen protagonist Bigger Thomas in a 1950 movie. Wright was 42 at the time!
Daphne du Maurier may have been the favorite writer of Alfred Hitchcock, who made three films — including The Birds — based on her work.
H.G. Wells and Orson Welles (each of The War of the Worlds fame) appeared together on the same San Antonio radio show in 1940.
The Group author Mary McCarthy’s brother was actor Kevin McCarthy and a cousin was politician Eugene McCarthy.
The Jungle author Upton Sinclair received nearly 900,000 votes when he ran for governor of California in 1934.
Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God) worked as an anthropologist with Margaret Mead.
What do Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Beatles have in common? Liverpool! Hawthorne was U.S. consul there.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling is the only YA (young adult) novel to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Patricia Highsmith, Flannery O’Connor, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut were among the writers who were also cartoonists.
“Peanuts” cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’s favorite novels included The Great Gatsby and Anna Karenina.
Dr. Seuss partly based the look of his Cat in the Hat character on the Uncle Sam he drew for his editorial cartoons about 15 years earlier.
You can read many more facts if you buy the book!
Any interesting literary trivia you’d like to mention?
I might reply to comments more slowly this week (spotty wifi isn’t helping), but I will reply!
In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece, about rampant overdevelopment in my town, is here.