Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Where Do Titles Come From?

I consider myself fairly title-challenged, so I was especially interested in this article about where authors find their titles. (Side note: I combed the Bible many times over looking for the right title for a novel manuscript and came up with diddley-squat!)

…Consider Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (from T.S. Eliot’s modernist revelation, The Waste Land); Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance (from W.H. Auden’s “Death’s Echo”); John Kennedy Toole’s comic masterpiece A Confederacy of Dunces (from a Jonathan Swift essay); Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet (from Conrad Aiken’s “Morning Song of Senlin”); Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (from Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium”); E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”); David Foster Wallace’s sprawling Infinite Jest (from Hamlet, which, by itself, has provided titles for dozens of novels). And the richness of Hamlet is hardly Shakespeare’s only contribution to the world of titles. The Bard’s oeuvre has inspired countless writers to plunder from his seemingly endless riches, from Joyce Carol Oates (New Heaven, New Earth) to Edith Wharton (The Glimpses of the Moon), from Isaac Asimov (The Gods Themselves) to Dorothy Parker (Not So Deep as a Well). If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, it isn’t hard to see how our most ambitious authors hope to create seriousness and clarify intent by echoing the elder masters in a legitimizing osmosis-by-title….


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.