Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Taxonomy of Lousy Book Titles

Darragh McManus complained about bad book titles. Eric Puchner of The Rumpus went the extra mile and actually classified the different types of bad titles.

He divides them into:

The Faux Poetic but Authentically Meaningless (“Hunt the Mist Slowly”);
The Purely Descriptive (“One Early Morning in Topeka at Dawn”)
The Lofty Abstraction, a.k.a. the Bad Kundera (“The Lonely Shackles of Mortality”)
The Hardy Boys Special (“The Hike from Hell”)
The Grammatically Complete Sentence (“Gladys Pemberton Strikes It Rich”)
The Inspirational Cliché (“Dreams of Rebirth”)
The Uninspirational Cliché (“Losing My Marbles”)
The Alliterative Tongue Twister (“Peripatetic Papa”)
The Allusion to Another, Much More Famous Work of Literature (“The Story of Christ”)
The It-Doesn’t-Get-Any-Cuter-Than-This (“Runaway Grandma”)
The Melodramatic Image (“Blood Dries Brown”)
The My-Life-Changed-Unexpectedly-and-I’m-Going-to-Tell-You-About-It (“Epiphany in a Tattoo Parlor”)
The Bad McSweeney (“How We Lie to the Moon, and How the Moon Lies to Us”)
The Scratch ‘n Sniff, a.k.a. But-It-Will-Make-Such-a-Lovely-Cover-Someday (“In the Valley of the Gardenia Blossoms”)

I have a soft spot from the Grammatically Complete Sentence. (Examples: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, And to Think I Saw It All on Mulberry Street, All’s Well that Ends Well and Something Wicked This Way Comes — though Something Wicked could also be filed under The Allusion to Another, Much More Famous Work of Literature, in this case, Macbeth.) Otherwise, I agree with Puchner’s taxonomy.

Also, I think we should start calling David Sedaris The Bad McSweeney.

Onto a new subject — want to buy your wife a Hester Prynne jersey shirt? Or, for the man in your life, a Huck Finn? There’s also a Moby Dick shirt available, but it could easily be misunderstood.

I’ve received a few links for literary T-shirts recently. Out of Print Clothing has the best looking but I prefer Literary Rags. (Check out Out of Print’s Lolita shirt. If Prynne doesn’t send the wrong message to your lady friend, Lolita probably will.) Literary Rags keep it simple — a black-and-white image of the author and one of his or her more recognizable quotes.

Like most trendy T-shirts, these are pricey; but it costs to dress smart.

-Jason Lea,

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