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Origins of a Story: 202 true inspirations behind the world’s greatest literature by Jake Grogan, Cider Mill Press, US $24.95, Pp 320, October 2017, ISBN  978-1604337518

Whenever we read a classic novel or a good story, we wonder where the inspiration came from. A lot has been written to explain the sources of inspiration for a number of novels and short literature. However, there is still great literature whose origins are still unknown. In Origins of a Story, Jake Grogan has chosen 202 novels and short works of literature to show how their writers were inspired to write them. Jake Grogan began by breaking the concept of origin into two key questions: how and why. The questions were “How did the author come up with something?” and “Why did the author write about it?” His findings were largely similar – the how usually centered on an author’s experience, both in life and as a reader (as much as the two can be separate things), while the why almost always grew directly out of the how. Was it a perfect science? Of course not – the important context differed from book to book.

These roots of these famous works run deep and in many directions. Jake Grogan tells us that the concept of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came from a dream which came as the result of one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in civilized history. Green Eggs and Ham was the result of a bet that challenged Dr. Seuss to write a book containing fifty words or less. Portnoy’s Complaint was originally written as a satirical monologue meant to accompany a slideshow during the production of Oh! Calcutta! Margret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind because her husband got sick of carrying books to and from the library for his ailing wife. Jake Grogan writes, “These aren’t bits of context – these are stories… Any work of art, whether it be literature, art or anything in between, is an exaggeration of influences and inspirations. Other great works of literature covered in this include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyer, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude.

Jake Grogan shows that there are a number of sources of inspiration including real-life stories and events for great and classic writers. The greatness of these writers lies in the fact that they can use these sources of inspiration to write great literature. Origins of a Story is a collection of 202 stories behind as many short literature and novels. It will help you better understand not only these short works of literature and novels but also whet your appetite for good and classic literature. It is a must-read for all those who read classic and good literature.

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