When F. Scott Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby he planned to call his book ‘Trimalchio in West Egg’. Fortunately, he was persuaded to change his mind. Titles are hugely important and can make or break sales of a book. We do judge a book by its title!
It is fun to seek out some really unusual titles for novels. I love So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (Douglas Adams), The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (Christopher Moore), The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender), There’s a Wocket in my Pocket (Dr Seuss), The Woman who Gave Birth to Rabbits (Emma Donoghue), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) and The Aerodynamics of Pork (Patrick Gale). I haven’t read a single one of them, but the titles are so tempting.
Some titles, however, can be off-putting. I don’t think I want to read Don’t Pee on my Leg and Tell Me it’s Raining (Judy Cheindiin and Josh Getlin), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick), God’s Doodle: The Life and Times of the Penis (Tom Hickman), Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (Nick Flynn), A Book About Absolutely Nothing (L.M. Nobody), or The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories (Alisa Surkis).
If an author gets it right, a title can be so enticing and memorable – A Clockwork Orange, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Catcher in the Rye, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, The Sound and the Fury, Cold Comfort Farm, Things Fall Apart, Gone with the Wind, A Many-Splendoured Thing, A Confederacy of Dunces, Pride and Prejudice, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Grapes of Wrath, Vanity Fair and Of Human Bondage are just some examples.
Some titles are sheer fun – How to Ride a Velocipede: Straddle a Saddle, then Paddle and Skedaddle, How to Cook Husbands, Sex Pots … and Pans, Girls Who Don’t Read are Skanks, Every Woman Should Have a Blowtorch, and Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns. These are titles to get the imagination going …
And I do have to wonder about the length of some books, judging them solely by their titles – In Praise of Bald Men, Highlights in the History of Concrete, Cooking to Kill: The Poison Cookbook, How to Enjoy your Weeds, The Joy of Water Boiling and People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead. And surely death is the only prevention listed in Old Age: Its Causes and Prevention?
“What’s in a name?”, asks Juliet. Well, rather a lot when it comes to book titles. What do you think? Tell me by leaving a comment.