Draft titles

ms detail from joyce's ulysses

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.

  • Catch-18
  • 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

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  1. Maybe a quibble, but Christie’s book was published under the original title in Britain, which makes it a bit more than a “draft title”. I believe the title was changed for the American publication?

  2. Thanks, Dan. Yes, the post title is loosely applied. The same is true for a couple other of the examples as well.