Friday, 5 December 2008

Imaginary Titles

Don't get too excited - I'm not talking about Count Dante, Baron Corvo or Prince d'Anjou Durazzo Durassow Romanoff Dolgorouki de Bourbon-Conde.

I'm talking about titles for biographies. There are a number of biographies boasting titles so wildly awful that I'm surprised the dust jackets they're printed on didn't catch fire out of professional shame. 


I actually own a copy of this but mine has a different cover: Eastwood is (thankfully) less nude and "Sexual Cowboy" is stamped across his forehead, presumably as some kind of warning.

Thanks to David Cairns, benevolent dictator of Shadowplay, for this misbegotten mess*. He's really said everything that needs to be said about the title, so I'll just draw your attention to the excruciating mishmash of typefaces. Why is the author's name written like that? It's a book, not a Nazi crate.

It's not the pun that distresses me so much - it's the cumbersome explanation underneath it. If you have to explain who somebody is on the cover of their biography then the title you wrote hasn't done its job. Frankly, I'm a little surprised Walter Newkirk hasn't popped an expository sentence under his own name too. He is probably too famous for such clumsy elucidations. Perhaps this Edie Beale of Grey Gardens, First Cousin to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, should have written a book about him instead?

Although there are tens of tens - possibly even hundreds of dreadfully feeble biography titles polluting paper across the globe, there must be trillions of others just begging to be born. For example, idiotic publishing types have consistently failed to ask the widow of wrestler/actor/writer/ultimate bald-headed, rough-looking Yorkshireman, Brian Glover, to write a memoir detailing their life together. Imagine a world where "The Bri Who Gloved Me" sits on top of the hardback charts! I could be happy in a world like that.

Other unwritten gems include:

"Jude, Glorious Jude: I am the Law" (autobiography)

"Simply Ned" (a touching tribute to Ned Beatty written by his brother, Warren)

"Has Biehn?" (Michael Biehn details his 24 year decline)

I'll post any other ideas as and when they come to me and I invite you to do the same. And yes, I do realise that nobody reads this blog but I just want to be polite, that's all.

*I should also thank David for a number of other things about this blog including the subject matter, the pictures and, quite possibly, some of the phrases.


D Cairns said...

I'd quite like to write the definitive study of Von Sternberg, Polanski and Scorsese. I guess I would call it The Short Filmmakers.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Having written a book on Marty, and studied thelives of a great many filmmkaers, I am left with Marlene Dietrich's last line in Touch of Evil

alex said...

DC - I never knew Von Sternberg was short! I guess his name sounds so important and serious that the idea never occurred to me.

DE - that line is the swiss army knife of biography titles and epitaphs. So really it's two swiss army knives in one!