Did you know that Truman Capote traveled across Kansas with a very close life-long friend when he covered the incidents that became part of In Cold Blood? That friend was Harper Lee – yes, the charming lady who wrote the delightful To Kill A Mocking Bird.
If you are curious to know how your favorite authors thought of and developed the ideas behind their greatest books, you should pick up Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway: Stories of the Inspiration Behind Great Works of Literature by Celia Blue Johnson. It’s available in the New Fiction series in Barnes and Noble at the University Village store.
I’ll give you a few examples to entice you to read this book:
While Leo Tolstoy was relaxing in a sofa in his huge mansion, with his eyes closed, he saw the vision of an aristocratic lady’s elbow. As the vision expanded, he saw more than the elbow – a slight hint of her facial expression. Beautiful, richly-dressed, but sad. That vision became Anna Karenina.
George Orwell, distressed as he was with Russia’s socialist system hardening into severe hierarchy, one day noticed a farmer boy raising his whip to control a horse. The raised arm and whip were enough for the horse to trot back to its position. Orwell wondered what would happen if animals realized how strong and powerful they were compared to human beings. No whiplash or kick could control them anymore. And Orwell began to think of a world in which animals were in total control of their lives with the promise of equality until the leaders – lazy pigs – became too obsessed with their power. Soon enough, readers received one of the most famous political allegories in the English language – Animal Farm.
When and how did some of our favorite authors write?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was driving to Mexico with his family for a long-deserved holiday. While maneuvering the winding roads, the following lines floated into his mind: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” He turned around his car, rushed back home, and started writing. He quit his advertising agency-job; his wife kept their landlord at bay for over eight months and let credit accumulate at the butcher’s. Then the world received the gift of One Hundred Years of Solitude.
The glamor of warfare wore off for Joseph Heller when his fellow-bombardier was killed. He came face to face with his mortality. He decided to write about the farce of war’s glory and nobility. The original title was supposed to be Catch-18 but Leon Uris’s Mila 18 was scheduled to be published at the same time; chances were that no one would pick up an unknown writer’s first book when compared to an established author Uris’s book. Another title, Catch 11 would have to compete with the recently released Hollywood movie, Ocean’s 11. So, Heller and his publisher decided upon Catch-22.
If you want to read the fascinating origins of the some of the best literary pieces in English, read this book. You will find the stories behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, On the Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Phantom of the Opera, Winnie the Pooh, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and many more.
Go ahead, grab a seat, and read this charming little book!