Browsing through my own blog – as you do when you are still new to the business – I happened to consider the title’s length of one of my posts, Instalment 4 of the Can a fiction book make you…mini series, titled ‘Can a fiction book make you so sad that you want to…etc.’) The title was intentionally long, mainly for comic effect. However, re-reading it reminded me of one of my favourite short stories by one of my favourite contemporary authors, Dave Eggers. The double helping of favourites brings me close to tears.
The title: “What It Means When a Crowd in a Faraway Nation Takes a Soldier Representing Your Own Nation, Shoots Him, Drags Him from His Vehicle and Then Mutilates Him in the Dust.” This is easily one of the longest titles I ever came across – except for perhaps the title of my PhD dissertation, but this is another story…
The difference in Eggers’ voice as a writer doesn’t stop here. What follows the title is one single paragraph, a rather long one spanning across two pages, and comprising the totality of the short story (What do you make of this, Mr King?) The message gets straight through you – impossible to ignore.
Well, if this short story is not worth looking up as a reader and budding writer I don’t know what is. Do look it up as your next read, you will not regret it. I have it as part of a short story collection titled How we are hungry, originally published by McSweeneys in 2004, which I go back to every now and again in between more official reads.
I also love A heartbreaking work of staggering genius, which I will return to in a post devoted to a Cry Me a River mini series. Oh blast, I’ve done it now, revealing how incredibly moving this book is, but again a must read if new to you.
Has a fiction book made you re-think your approach to titles? As always, drop me a line, I’ll be grateful for your views.