Saturday, June 05, 2004

Bittersweet Implacable Yearning on the Orient Express

Picture this: you’re a shit-hot writer and have just typed ‘The End’ at the bottom of tastefully-sized novelette which, with the right marketing, will literally tear the arts world apart!

But before you can lob up to a publisher to claim your six-figure advance, you need a title. And here’s where it gets complicated…

Literary novels -- you know, the books they make you read at University but which mostly serve as coffee-table decoration -- need to have a certain type of title or they won’t get stocked next to The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Angus and Robertson. Some examples: The Secret Language of Cranes, The Remains of the Day, The Buddha of Suburbia, The Name of the Rose, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Snow Falling on Cedars, Miss Smillas Feeling for Snow, The Executioner’s Song, The Optimist’s Daughter, The Moor’s Last Sigh.

Spy fiction, on the other hand, which is a genre written by small-dicked men who can barely write for small-dicked men who can barely read (just kidding!), has a very different set of naming conventions: The Bourne Identity, The Odessa Files, The Manchurian Candidate, The Matarese Circle, The Fifth Profession, The Fourth Protocol, The Icarus Agenda. But, at least, people buy and then read such novels. Even if they have to do so in the dead of night because of the shame.

Perhaps by exchanging titles, the spy novelists could gain some credibility and the literary writers could afford to feed their kids…

So, people might actually pick up and buy the following titles, mistaking them for books with a plot: The Lakemba Alienation, The Swinburne (University Sexuality Diversity Promotion Committee) Agenda, the Darlinghurst Ressentiment.

Likewise, how could the Booker Prize Committee resist the following spy titles: The Eye-watering Scent of Cordite, The Irresistable Conversation of Knuckles, The List of People Who Have to Be Shot, Miss Tasha’s Feeling for the Inside of Ivan's Chest Cavity; The Arab’s Last Breath.

If you can think of your own examples of amusing mis-matched titles, feel free to pepper them gratuitously through-out my comments box.

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