If Folly link with Elegance no man knows which is which ….
– William Butler Yeats
Month: April 2008 (Page 2 of 2)
Some book titles feel so much a part of their texts that that the works’ draft titles seem like oddly fitted hats, discarded in the dressing room; others — including some forced on authors by their publishers — read like images aspired to but never quite met. And then there are the flat-out clunkers, to be files under “What were they thinking?”
It might be a curious exercise to gather together some of those discarded titles and parade them back out into the light. I can think of a few to get started, though I know I’m forgetting many.
- Like Water for Hot Chocolate
- Trimalchio in West Egg (The Great Gatsby; one of several discarded titles)
- Ten Little Niggers (And Then There Were None, A. Christie)
- The Snatch (The Moving Target, R. Macdonald)
- Stephen Hero (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)
- Slaves (“I Sing the Body Electric,” Whitman)
- The Man Who Disappeared (Amerika, Kafka)
- The Sisters (The Rainbow, Lawrence)
- A Paean (“Lenore,” Poe)
- A Prayer (The Power and the Glory, Greene)
Shown: detail of Joyce’s manuscript of Ulysses, via Anthony Cummins
That’s what Rachel Donadio, in an article in the New York Times, calls this sort of situation: You’re in the getting-to-know-you stages of a relationship, and you encounter for the first time the other person’s bookshelf. Could what you see there cause you to break up the relationship then and there? How appalling would the book list have to be?
A shelf full of Any Rand would give me pause. At Donadio’s blog, readers offer their own nominations, which include such books as The Da Vinci Code and The Alchemist and such authors as Rand, Tom Peters, and even Umberto Eco.
The premise has something of a Nick Hornbyish High Fidelity quality to it. A commenter named Dante remarks on Donadio’s blog “Only a completely pretentious jackass would use a book as a measure of someone’s worth.” But another, with the handle of Oscar Wilde, says that “Only superficial people don’t judge by appearances.”
I suppose that blogs would have deal breakers as well. What kind of topic would incline you unsubscribe from a bookish blog?
Image (detail) from Nikita Kashner’s photostream