January 1 is best known, of course, as New Year’s Day. But in the literary world, it has an even greater meaning. It’s also known as Public Domain Day! That means that anything written (music, novels, poems, etc), drawn, filmed, or painted 75 years ago becomes part of the public domain because the copyrights run out. And this year we have a number of important additions including 25 of Dorothy Parker’s most famous poems originally published in 1925. These poems described the flapper/speakeasy era with a perfect wit and some salty satire and are definitely worth reading. But another huge addition to public works is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby!

So what does this mean for the average person? It means that these works, as well as others listed here, are now available to be quoted or used without needing permission from estates and without a fee. You want to copy Edward Hopper’s famous painting House by the Railroad as a tattoo? Go for it! If you want to use a quote from one of Dorothy Parker’s poems on a mug or T-shirt? Do it! It’s free! And if you want to stand on a street corner and read aloud from The Great Gatsby, let me know when you’re doing it because I’ll be there filming it for Instagram.

A few other novels that entered the public domain this month include Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, John Dos Passos’, Manhattan Transfer, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.

In case you’re not familiar with The Great Gatsby, here’s my favorite quote from the book (that I can now use) that hopefully will encourage you to read it.

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”  ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


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