Today when writing a bio for an anthology that picked up one of my poems, I changed the title of my new memoir, again. This is now the fifth name given to this book, each choice emphasized a different aspect of the story (of my life) , or of the writer, or of how i hope readers will engage with it.
At first I started with something simple and declarative, The Daughter of Arabs--too obvious and offputting, my genius writer friends told me. Isn't sexy. I had to think about what sexy meant in this context...not enough allure, come-on, tittillation? I solicited ideas. It's in the text somewhere I always assert. So through and through the five hundred and so pages I go. It was From this Country--too bland. When Silence was Frightening--misleading (now the name of my new novel, very appropriate); then Country of Origin, the same name as my first play, and now, in this writing of the bio this morning, The Water Cycle. A name of a chapter.
This name will probably stick. I hope so. I am mystified by the power of titles (book covers are another subject). I am not sure that a book ever succeeds on the mojo of its title. But I do know that it may not succeed because because of a poorly selected title. My first memoir was named Children of the Roojme by my editor at Norton. She was very smart, a brilliant editor, so she had to be right. But at every reading, hearing the emcee stumble over my difficult name and then over the unpronounceable title, I was certain it was a mistake. You don't fill the cover with foreign words that aren't yes, sexy enough to be intriguing.
When I consider book names I really love, they often had an effect on me in the store. Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Farming of Bones, The House of Spirits, To See and See Again--all lived up to their titles. The perfect sensibility, essence, moment of desire, right on the cover. And I think of books I love whose titles are less intriguing, Bone, Graceland, Persepolis, the experience was enomously satisfying--I was excited by the extra special gift in the plainer wrapping.
But there are titles that do fail to pull me in and my eyes gloss right past them as I peruse shelves, tables and Powells on line.
I have tried to come up with some recipe for drawing the taste of the book to the surface, to entice the eyes of the reader/consumer, but obviously I have not, since I'm now on number 5 for this memoir. Should it tell the story? Should it be exciting, inflammatory, or lull the reader into desire? should it be hynotic, ironic? I am still convince it's in the book, somehwere. That the book has already named itself.
This morning, mine has told me The Water Cycle and so I'm about to go in and change the footer. With the hopes that when I hit "save," i'm doing it for the last time.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports