Apparently book titles can’t be copyrighted – I was going to call my first tome ‘Confessions of an English Opium Eater’, but my advisers counselled against it – which might explain why so many of them sound so familiar to me. More precisely, particular books of a particular genre all have similar names.
I suppose the old publishing game has become very stratified, and publishers are hell-bent on making sure their new product reaches the exact market they want it to reach. Therefore, they give each book the perfect title for that demographic. (Yes, I know it’s a sin to use words like ‘market’, ‘product’ and ‘demographic’ when discussing books, but such is the crass, grubby world we live in.)
This was once limited to what used to be – and probably still is – called ‘genre fiction’: Chick Lit, Bloke Lit, Chicks With Dicks Lit, Blokes With No Dicks Lit, zombie novels, the Tom Clancy oeuvre (note: some of these may be invented). Now, what still is – and will continue to be – called ‘literary fiction’ has also caught the ‘samey title’ virus.
At times I even suspect that there’s a computer somewhere that spews out clichéd names for books, depending on the genre. THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS, for example: what a tiresomely predictable title for a Booker Prize winner.
Seriously – THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS? Presumably the marketing department keyed in ‘self-important, depressing, award-winning, Literary-with-a-capital-L’ and hit Return, and this is what the machine gave them. (They also added the fairly redundant subtitle, ‘A Novel’, just in case we might have mistaken it for a comical sports book.)
Add to this list of shame such uninspired titles as: THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST. THE SECRET SCRIPTURE. THE GATHERING. (The Boredom. The Trite. The Cynical. The horror, the horror.)
By rights there should be a moratorium put on certain words being used in the name of a novel: ‘Notes from’, ‘Letters from’, ‘Confessions of’, anyone’s ‘...Daughter’ or ‘...Son’, anything involving quirky-but-annoying juxtapositions, e.g. ‘Searching for Tractors in Alaska During Ramadan’, anything lengthy and literal which rips off THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME …
Having said that, if you can’t beat them, something something. (I always forget how that goes.) So help yourselves to any or all of these tremendous genre-specific monikers for your next book, folks …
Chick Lit: Is He Really as Much of a Bastard as He Seems?
Sci-fi: //_MultiVerse UnderTime Chronicles Vol. 1_//
Crime: Joey Jones’ Downbeat Goddamn Downtown Blues
Serial killer thriller type yoke: Blood on the Edge
Action-espionage: The Armageddon Code
‘Serious’ historical novel, i.e. something set in an immigrant community during the 1970s: Claggy Alley
Popular historical novel, i.e. something jolly and unpretentious written by Bernard Cornwell: Pirate Lords of Old Bristol
Fantasy: Mandala: Empress of the Golden Plains
Whimsical comic novel: The Spectabulicious Adventures of Lord Pettlesnook and his Patchwork Dirigible
Edgy fiction for hip twentysomethings: Fuckepedia
Booker winner: The Persimmon Gatherers
Bitterly disappointed Booker runner-up: Notes from the Spice-monger’s Daughter