Monday, June 2, 2008

Title sequence

The academic and critic John Sutherland is adept at highlighting literary quirks (as in his splendid books and Is Heathcliffe a Murderer? and Where was Rebecca Shot? which explored the possible implications of apparent literary anomalies).  In a piece in Saturday's Daily Telegraph, he examined the tendency, common in crime fiction but unusual elsewhere, of applying themed titles to series novels.  Some are obvious - Erle Stanley Gardner, James Patterson - but others are less so.  The Raymond Chandler thematic signature is obvious but for some reason had never occurred to me.  And of course I'm also guilty of this practice myself...

Incidentally, the list of James Patterson's 'nursery rhyme' titles seemed ripe for parody and reminded me vaguely of a New Statesman competition some years back in which readers were asked to come up with suggestions for as yet unpublished novels by famous authors.  My favourite was John Le Carré's One Potato, Two Potato, Spy.


1. Peter said...

Oh my gosh, is this fun. I shall now reach for a dictionary, choose the first name I come to on the copyright page. Then I will open the dictionary to a random page and choose the first noun I see. The result, once "The" is added? That one book Robert Ludlum never got to.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

2. Michael Walters said...

Oh, yes - I'd forgotten Robert Ludlum in this context. I recall a (possibly apocryphal) story about Martin Amis and Julian Barnes competing to come up with Ludlumesque retitlings of classic works of literature. Amis (I think) won with 'Hamlet' retitled as 'The Elsinore Vacillation'.

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