by Paul Stansfield
In Part 1 of this post, printed here last week, I explained some of my issues with titles in general, and how they pertained to my recent release, Kaishaku. This part contains the same subject categories, but with new examples.
Original Titles of Famous Books:
1) The Chronic Argonauts became The Time Machine (1895) H. G. Wells. I actually kind of like this original title.
2) Bar-B-Q was changed to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934) James M. Cain. Haven’t read this, but the original title seems dull and meaningless.
3) The Dead Un-Dead became Dracula (1897) Bram Stoker.
4) Come and Go was changed to The Happy Hooker (1972) Xaviera Hollander with Robin Moore and Yvonne Dunleavy. Funny how the title with “Hooker” in it seems less sleazy.
5) Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and Then a Captain of Several Ships became Gulliver’s Travels (1726) Jonathan Swift. I think it was the style of the time to have long titles which were almost blurbs. I much prefer the shorter, punchier name.
6) Catch 22 (1961) by Joseph Heller, has a long, tortured, title history. First it was Catch 18, but it was thought that would be confused with Leon Uris’s World War 2-set Mila 18 (also out in 1961), so it was changed to Catch 11. Then people thought this might be too close to the recent movie Ocean’s 11 so it became Catch 17. This, in turn was thought too similar to World War 2 movie Stalag 17, so it became Catch 14. The publisher thought this number “wasn’t funny” so it became Catch 22.
7) The title of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake (1939) was known only to himself and his wife until publication. To others it was Work in Progress. Don’t know if this is the source for the common acronym “WIP” used by writers. (Off the topic, but with my love of horror/exploitation movies “WIP” makes me think of the Women In Prison subgenre first.)
8) A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis became Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) Phillip Roth.
Another Amusingly Bitter Author’s Quote About Titles: “I’m trying to think up a good title for you to want me to change” by Raymond Chandler to his publisher.
Shortest Book Titles Used: This is a huge tie, as many authors have used one letter titles. Some of the more famous examples are A by Andy Warhol, G by John Berger, S by John Updike, and V by Thomas Pynchon. In case anyone’s interested, the letters B, D, F, I, J, L, R, T, and U are still available.
More Titles Taken From Other Literature:
1) As I Lay Dying (1936) by William Faulkner, was taken from Homer’s The Odyssey.
2) No Country For Old Men (2005) by Cormac McCarthy, was taken from Sailing to Byzantium (1928) William Butler Yeats.
3) Of Human Bondage (1915) by W. Somerset Maugham, was taken from Ethics (1677) Baruch (or Benedict) Spinoza.
4) A Passage to India (1924) by E. M. Forster, was taken from Leaves of Grass (1855) Walt Whitman.
5) Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) by Robert Heinlein, was inspired by the Bible, Exodus 2:22.
More Funny And/Or Strange Book Titles: Once again, these are all real!
1) How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (3rd Edition, 2004) by Kathleen Meyer. I’m surprised by the multiple editions—has that much changed over the years about dropping a deuce on camping trips? Also, I enjoy the fact that’s it referred to as an “art.”
2) People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It (2005) by Gary Leon Hill. Truly, the worst zombies are those that lack self-awareness. (This is a sincere book, written by a psychic.)
3) The Holy Spirit of My Uncle’s Cojones (1999) by Marcos McPeek Villantoro. It’s a fictional memoir/coming of age novel, and well reviewed.
4) Excrement in the Late Middle Ages (2006) by Susan Signe Morrison. Unfortunately I’m not interested in the excrement of the Early Middle Ages, so I’ll pass. (Also, it’s over $80!)
5) Peek-a-Poo What’s in Your Diaper? (2010) by Guido van Genechten. Spoiler Alert—it’s always urine and/or feces. (Serious essays on adult incontinence—no, just kidding, kid’s book.)
6) Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves (2009) by Duncan Birmingham. Unless your pet is a parrot or a signing ape, how do you gauge clinical depression in animals? I guess I should read this. (In reality it’s a humor book, making fun of people who dress up their pets in embarrassing costumes.)
7) Ragnar’s Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives (1999) by Ragnar Benson. Amazon says this is “unavailable.” I wonder why. (Seriously, ordering this one might get you on some government watch lists.)
8) Castration: The Advantages and the Disadvantages (2003) by Victor T. Cheney. I’m assuming the former part of this is two sentences—“Keep that lovely soprano singing voice,” and “No more pesky paternity suits!”—and the latter part is the other 300 pages.
9) How to Tell if Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist, and if He is, Should You Break up with Him? (2007) by Patricia Carlin. Because you shouldn’t be hasty—you should weigh all the good and bad points about dating The Prince of Darkness before acting. Example—“Pro: Has a cute smile. Con: Has a tendency to flay, kill, and steal the souls from all of my friends and family.”
10) Cooking With Poo (2011) by Saiyuud Diwong. The ladies from 2 Girls, 1 Cup have branched out and written a cookbook! (No, not really (yet). “Poo” is Thai for “crab,” and correspondingly the nickname of a famous Thai chef. I’m sure this type of linguistic coincidence works both ways—maybe “pork and beans” means something like “mucus-hugger” in some other group’s language, and they’re laughing at us.
Here is a little from Paul Stansfield's new release that has its own unique title.
After receiving a DUI, Dustin Dempster is working off community service hours in a hospital. While there, he’s asked to do amateur counseling of difficult patients. He thinks this a waste of time, and reluctantly agrees.
One of these difficult patients is Levon Howard, a man paralyzed from the neck down because of a car accident. He’s initially uncooperative, but after being charmed by Dustin’s brutal honesty and willingness to break some small hospital rules, he agrees to participate. Soon he’s revealing his darkest secrets to Dustin…
To read an excerpt from Kaishaku, Please click HERE.
Learn more about Paul Stansfield on his entertaining blog.
I'll be back Wednesday with a new menu. Until then...