25 Interesting Facts about American Literature

Interesting trivia about American writers and their work

As it’s Independence Day, how about some facts about the great and the good from American literature, from Edgar Allan Poe to Toni Morrison? What follows is a compilation of our 25 favourite facts about American authors and their writing.

Edgar Allan Poe’s prose-poem Eureka predicts the Big Bang theory by some eighty years.

Marlon Brando was a huge fan of Toni Morrison; he would often call her up and read passages of her own novels which he particularly enjoyed.

Before the film premiere of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock bought all remaining copies of Robert Bloch’s original novel as he was afraid that people would buy the novel and spoil the twist ending to the film.

Mark Twain in bedThere is an asteroid named after Kurt Vonnegut.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s father was the first cousin, once removed, of Mary Surratt, a woman hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Before he turned 13, Samuel Clemens – later to become Mark Twain – had nearly drowned on nine separate occasions.

Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, tried to ban Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The author of Goodnight Moon bequeathed the royalties from the book to the 9-year-old son of her neighbour. It has made him a millionaire.

In Philip Roth’s 1972 novel The Breast, the protagonist David Kepesh finds himself transformed into a 155-lb breast.

Stephen King threw away the manuscript of his first novel, Carrie. His wife retrieved it, encouraged him, and it was later published.

American poet Hart Crane, who drowned himself in 1932, was the son of the man who invented Life Savers sweets.

Little Orphan Annie was originally named Little Orphan Otto, until it was pointed out that the character looked more female than male.

Working titles for Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind included ‘Pansy’ and ‘Baa! Baa! Black Sheep’.

Jack KerouacAccording to Jack Kerouac, the ‘Beat’ in ‘Beat Generation’ is actually derived from the word ‘beatitude’, meaning ‘blessedness’.

William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch got its title when his friend Jack Kerouac misread the working title ‘Naked Lust’.

In 1991, a shopper at a Philadelphia flea market found a copy of the Declaration of Independence worth $2.4 million.

Ernest Hemingway once hit a critic who’d given one of his books a bad review.

Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote both sharpened pencils to help them think while they were writing.


The name Wyoming was taken from an 1809 poem, ‘Gertrude of Wyoming’, by Thomas Campbell about a massacre that took place in 1778.

Eric Carle’s bestselling book The Very Hungry Caterpillar was inspired by a hole punch.

J. D. Salinger fought at D-Day. In his backpack were six chapters of an early draft of The Catcher in the Rye.

Benjamin Franklin invented an extension arm for removing books from high shelves.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) wrote while leaning over a refrigerator because he was so tall.

Hunter S. Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas began as a 250-word photo-caption for Sports Illustrated magazine.

William Faulkner’s original title for his novel The Sound and the Fury was ‘Twilight’.

If you enjoyed these facts about classic American literature, you might also like these film adaptations of classic American novels and our facts about reading and literacy.

Image (top): Mark Twain lying in bed, 1906 (author: Underwood & Underwood), Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Image (bottom): Jack Kerouac wearing a short crew cut in 1943 (picture: USGov), Wikimedia Commons.


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  2. Always enjoy these posts of yours!

  3. Love factoids like these! Thanks for sharing, Bette. :)

  4. Certainly an interesting bunch. Their biographies would all make entertaining reading.

  5. Tittilating trivia.

  6. Reblogged this on Janet’s thread.

  7. Very interesting. Yes sharpening pencils can inspire an intention to drawn out the words of wisdom. One of my favourite pastimes, if only I could write.

  8. Great post. Some really great facts.

  9. I am so glad that I read this one. Thank you for sharing =)

  10. I love trivia about authors. Thank you. This was fun!

  11. Reblogged this on Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author and commented:
    American Literature, Books, Classics, English Literature, Facts, Famous Authors, Literature, Writers. ENJOY! ~ Bette A. Stevens