The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘titles’

Title Fights

May 25, 2016 | by

Who gets to name an author’s book?

black-and-white-people-bar-men

When I was readying my first novel for publication, it struck me that writers have far more control over what’s in their books than what’s on them—the cover art, blurbs, jacket copy, but especially the title, where the author’s concerns overlap with marketing ones. Deciding on a name for your life’s work is hard enough; the prospect of changing it at the eleventh hour is like naming your newborn, then hearing the obstetrician say, But wouldn’t Sandra look amazing on the certificate? It took a nine-month war of attrition to secure the original title of my book, Private Citizens.

The history of writers fighting for their book titles is extensive and bloody; so powerful is the publisher’s veto that not even Toni Morrison, fresh off her Nobel win, got to keep her preferred title for Paradise, which was War. (For her most recent book, God Help the Child, she favored The Wrath of Children.) Who knows why George Orwell’s editor thought Nineteen Eighty-Four was more commercially viable than The Last Man in Europe, or why the industry’s gerund fetish turned Helen Simpson’s Hey Yeah Right Get a Life into the insipid Getting a Life? Read More »

Mourning the Striped Pig, and Other News

September 30, 2015 | by

Time was you could find this fella on newsstands, getting sloshed.

  • Fact: the American newspapers and gazettes of the nineteenth century had names that absolutely trounced their present-day counterparts where liveliness and creativity are concerned (with the exception of the Modesto Bee, which remains a truly great paper title). In simpler times, you could spend your mornings over the Horseneck Truth Teller and Gossip Journal, Estabrook’s Great Public Chowder, Steven H. Branch’s Alligator, and the Striped Pig, among others.
  • For a different kind of nostalgia, contemplate MacGyver, which hit the airwaves thirty years ago and has left in its wake a mess of nerdy white-male heroics and misplaced, quasi-racist adventure: “MacGyver embraces its own insistent loneliness to an absurd degree. And that, in turn, makes the whole show feel distinctly retrograde … MacGyver sags under the weight of its old-school definition of heroism. It glorifies the single man—the single mullet—while treating other people as victims and saps.”
  • Not dissimilarly: in a new book, Lions in the Balance, Craig Packer attempts to careen between the MacGyver-esque machismo of those who hunt lions in the Serengheti and the “communal emotionalism” that so often animates conservation movements. “It is his position, as the story begins, that the lions of the Serengeti need sport hunters to survive; that Cecils must die if prides are to endure … In his quest to restructure incentives, in his willingness to take the long view, in his commitment to numbers over narrative, Packer deems himself ‘ultimately alone.’ ”
  • Trying to build a brand of one? Of course you are! This is the age of the brandividual. Let me tell you a few things you already knew, though: it’s a futile project, authenticity is a myth, and branding strategists are working to make our society a waking nightmare of empty professionalism. “I don’t think it’s possible to appeal to everyone and still be authentic, let alone unique. When [my branding strategist] declared my web-site font ‘almost hippie-dippy,’ I couldn’t help but get a bit defensive. So what if it is? My truest self does not use ‘impact as a verb.’ My truest self likes to be catty about former employers that have done me wrong, not write pleasant summaries of what I was able to achieve while working there. My truest self is sending GIFs to my friends, not cheerfully influencing strangers’ thoughts.”
  • Today in new and novel uses for the black crayon: Richard Serra’s strangely affecting “Ramble Drawings” are seventy-four works on paper, all “variations on Malevich’s square, stretched out and pressed with black lithographic crayons to achieve different textures: oily, streaky, pocked, solid. The pictures, stacked like rows of large, incongruous industrial cement bricks across the gallery walls, are anything but monotonous, however. Black never looked so colorful.”

Keep Calm and—Stop It, Just Stop It, and Other News

June 27, 2014 | by

keep calm

Even the creators of the slogan didn’t like it.

  • Bernard-Henri Lévy remains, at sixty-five, the paragon of “noble insolence”: “Responding to a recent query from a Parisian newspaper about the secret of his perpetual youth, his advice was, ‘Don’t spend time with boring people.’ The unbuttoned white shirt—he tells interviewers that he would choke otherwise—is a form of social provocation that he doubtlessly relishes; it also constitutes a dandyish parlor trick, leading otherwise shrewd judges of character and intellectual talent to underestimate his political acumen and Puritan work habits.”
  • The “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster that launched millions of profoundly vacuous parodies is seventy-five years old today—but it was only first seen in 2001. The British Treasury refrained from printing it during World War II because they thought “the phrase was ‘too commonplace to be inspiring … it may even annoy people.’” Prescient.
  • Have novelists exhausted the supply of decent titles? Last year saw two books called Life After Life; this year there’s Remember Me This Way and Remember Me Like This; and Stephen King’s Joyland came eight years after Erica Schultz’s Joyland.
  • Celebrity novels, reviewed: Chuck Norris’s The Justice Riders “wraps up with Justice sharing the gospel with Mordecai, then shooting him dead after the bad guy rejects Jesus—which is sort of Norris’s worldview in a nutshell.”
  • To catch a (phone) thief: “You’d NEVER send a message with the incorrect ‘your’—no matter how plastered you are!”

2 COMMENTS

Down to the Wireless

April 23, 2014 | by

Mike Licht flickr women of wifi

Mike Licht, Women of Wi-Fi, after Caillebotte. Image via Flickr

Someone in my building—or maybe two different people, I don’t know—rejoices in cruel, taunting names for his wireless networks: “MineNotYours” and “NoFreeLunch.” “I’m just going to go out on a limb here,” my old boyfriend once said, “and speculate that this person is an asshole.”

But is he? Riding in the elevator or passing neighbors in the hall, I often wonder who it might be—the retired nurse upstairs? The mild-mannered gentleman with the rescue dogs? The 103-year-old who sits with her nurse in the lobby? Does someone have a small, secret life as a righteous, anonymous enforcer? Read More »

Ye Olde Grease Lightning, and Other News

September 12, 2013 | by

greaselarge

  • San Francisco-based Arion Press—the last full-service letterpress in America—is in pursuit of the perfect book.
  • “Think of such trends in titles as the publishing industry’s version of ombré hair or white Chuck Taylors.” The word land in titles is all the rage for F/W. 
  • Let the record show: say syllabuses, not syllabi.
  • “Today there is literature coming out of Syria that we could have never even dreamed of just a few years ago.” Political turmoil has given birth to a new wave of Syrian poetry
  • In which college students act out scenes from Grease in Old English.
  •  

    NO COMMENTS

    Giant Mr. Darcy Terrorizes London, and Other News

    July 9, 2013 | by

    terrifyingdarcyhuge

    • A twelve-foot fiberglass Mr. Darcy is currently standing in the middle of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, and is terrifying.
    • A new analytics tool claims it can detect sarcasm in online comments. But the best part: “Its clients include the Home Office, EU Commission and Dubai Courts.”
    • The artist formerly known as “the” is now represented by the symbol Ћ.
    • Book titles missing one (key) letter.
    • A scientifically accurate “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Sample lyric: “Thirty-two light years in the sky / Ten parsecs which is really high.”

     

    NO COMMENTS