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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Modernism XI

The miraculous yield of 1922.

The year of Ulysses, The Waste Land, Rilke’s Dueno Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus(written in three days). Of Brecht’s first play, Baal, Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod. Virginia Wolfe’s Jacob’s Room, Proust’s Sodom and Gomorrah, Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christy, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt, Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.

All published in one year. Imagine what the judges of the literary prizes would have done faced with that lot. Who would have been left out of the short-list?

I know you’re going to tell me.

8 Responses to “Modernism XI”

  1. Jennyta says:

    An impressive line-up indeed. I loved The Wasteland, although when I studied it at A level, it was sadly wasted on me.

  2. I hate to sound like a real anorak but the actual title of Fitzgerald’s novel is “The Beautiful And Damned”. I know this because Fitzgerald is my all-time writing hero to the point of being obsessed with the guy.

    The odd thing is that “The Beautiful And The Damned” sounds much more natural to me too, more balanced, almost poetic. Over the years I’ve even wondered if the book’s title is actually grammatically correct.

    Maybe you’re right after all.

  3. john baker says:

    I think you’re right to point this out. The two alternatives are quite different. Fizgerald was someone who loved language and used it meticulously. Consider this, for example, from the novel in question:

    Her bosom is still a pavement that she offers to the hoofs of many passing stallions, hoping that their iron shoes may strike even a spark of romance in the darkness….

    His working title for the novel was The Flight of the Rocket, later changed to The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy.

  4. Actually, I don’t think he was that hot on working titles. “Trimalchio in West Egg” doesn’t quite have the resonance of “The Great Gatsby”, for me at least.

  5. john baker says:

    I think it was originally called Trimalchio’s Banquet, then Trimalchio in West Egg, and still later it became, briefly, The High Bouncing Lover before Fitzgerald fixated on Under the Red White and Blue. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, disregarded Fitzgerald’s urgent telegrams on the matter, thought the title lacked sales appeal and changed it to The Great Gatsby.
    But the prize for this business of titles must go to Dickens, who called the book we now know as Bleak House, “Tom-All-Alone’s Factory That Got Into Chancery and Never Got Out.”
    As they say, you couldn’t make it up.

  6. Napfisk says:

    I’ve always had a thing for 1928, though not strictly on a literary basis: Point Counter Point, Orlando, Decline and Fall, Ravel’s Bolero and Mosolov’s Iron Foundry, Van Ostaijen’s Gedichten and Lemaitre’s Big Bang Theory, not to mention Baird’s television, Amelia Earhardt’s flight and the first ‘talkies’: and Steam Boat Willy

  7. john baker says:

    Thanks for the input, Napfisk. Good to see you in these parts.

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