Navtej Sarna thinks that Heinrich Boell’s Billiards at half past nine is an object lesson in the craft of writing. While writing about the book, he also talks about something that we have been discussing in this blog and at Brain Drain, namely, who picks the title of a book and what role, if any, does it play in our choosing them to read:
When authors and editors put their heads together to decide on the name for a book, it is not an idle moment. The name, perhaps more than anything else, will define the book, attract the eye or strike a resonance, at least at first encounter.
My bookshelf is sprinkled with books bought because their names touched off a particular chord, brought back some shadowy time or promised a longer look at an evanescent haunting image. At least three of these books have been holding out a long overdue invitation to be read, an invitation that I seem to have resisted, ironically for the same reason that I bought them. Their names are so attractive and their appeal so romantic that any disappointment on their actually being read would be multiplied manifold.
Take a look!
In the same issue of Literary Review in which Sarna’s piece appears, Pradeep Sebastian, in his Endpaper column, talks about a book of erudite literary lunacy; along the way, he also tells about a book that was rejected 76 times before getting published:
If you’re not already a fan of the Thursday Next series, welcome to the parallel literary universe of author Jasper Fforde where that seminal dream of every bibliophile — the desire to step into the universe of a favourite book — comes true.
The Eyre Affair, the first Thursday Next novel, was rejected 76 times before Penguin snapped it up. Like the alternative universes in his books, his work crosses many genres: mystery, fantasy, science fiction, meta-fiction. Thursday, a woman in her mid-thirties, lives with her pet dodo, Pickwick, and is a literary detective in the real world who finds herself immersed in this bizarre ‘bookworld’.
His books come with DVD-like extras: deleted scenes, the making of, and many special features. How could a book, you ask, possibly contain this? The extras are stored in Fforde’s richly imagined and very expansive website where a password (usually the name of a character from the book in question) usually leads you to all these added DVD-like features. Other kinds of inter-textual whimsy run riot through his books: the endpapers carry bookplates, illustrations, and even advertisements (holiday character-exchange programmes: Rhet Butler and Scarlett inviting you to Tara for the weekend).
And, there is more in Sebastian’s piece; go take a look — right away!