Laura

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Arts & Culture > Poetry & Prose > Where it Came From
 

Where it Came From


While I am on the subject of novels, let's talk about the title. A few years ago, I started paying attention to where the title came from in the book. In just about every novel you read, at some point you come across a sentence that contains the title. I was thinking about taking the time to jot down the page number on the end paper of the book.

But then I decided that with my penchant for noticing trends and patterns, I'd find myself making a spreadsheet that listed the author, title, the sentence from the text containing the title, and that page number where it first showed up. I would look at what is the average page number for a given author: is it usually found early or late in his books?

And then I would add a field for an explanation of what the title meant because maybe it wouldn't be so clear from the one sentence. Next thing, I'd be keeping track of trivia: how many steps to Nero Wolfe's front door, what was Paul Drake's code knock, how much did Donald Lam weigh?

And might as well create a field for a plot synopsis while I'm at it.

I would have created a time line that proved Archie Goodwin was a dirty old man when he was out dancing with comely young clients, and come up with a chronology for the Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö characters, notably Martin Beck.

But no, I'm not going to do this because I would start to fear I'd missed doing it somewhere (for example, the thousands of books I've already read). It would be too much like work, and when I looked at the data, I would fret about what was not there instead of being contented with what was there. And I would have Database Dreams, more like nightmares, where I would be trying to move the information around, and it wouldn't go.

I'll just enjoy (or get through) each story, put a check mark in the front of the book so I'll know I've read it, and move on to the next one.

Right now, I'm cranking through pulpy private eye yarns from the middle of the last century, by the likes of Mickey Spillane and Carter Dickson, seasoned with psychological semi-Gothic thrillers by Charlotte Armstrong, and various others. One of these days, I will have read each of my vast collection of books at least once, keeping only the ones I think I might want to read again.


This is only a few of them. They are sorted by author.

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posted on Jan 8, 2013 12:29 PM ()

Comments:

So it appears that not only are we all writers, we are also readers. I am hooked on my Kindle Fire. I love getting free books online from my public library in the middle of the night. I can always find something to read.
comment by boots586 on Jan 10, 2013 7:04 AM ()
The library downloads are the best because as much as we read, we'd go broke buying the ebooks from Amazon and them. I download library audio books to my iPod and listen to them in my car, a life saver on the long road trips I take between Las Vegas and Colorado.
reply by troutbend on Jan 22, 2013 8:17 PM ()
"Too much like work" says it all. It reminds me of my pre-teen compulsion to avoid all sidewalk panels that had a crack in them. It started as an idle game and took over my life. I had to actively work to break the habit. Neurosis in the making.
comment by tealstar on Jan 10, 2013 6:17 AM ()
It's liberating to realize that just because we had a thought of something that would be interesting to do, we can let it go.
reply by troutbend on Jan 22, 2013 8:14 PM ()
I am reading one of your Dorothy Simpsons and I need to make a trip to
the library. When you go again, two of my favorites are The Casual Vacancy
and Gone Girl.
comment by elderjane on Jan 10, 2013 4:40 AM ()
I'll put those on the list. Gary found some new author he likes - Conor Fitzgerald - about an American guy who is a homicide investigator in Rome.
reply by troutbend on Jan 22, 2013 8:10 PM ()
What did you do, buy out a used pulp fiction collection?
comment by steve on Jan 8, 2013 7:28 PM ()
For many years our hobby was traveling around the country searching out used book stores. We had computer lists of the books we were looking for and what we already had. I was looking for my favorite authors, and Mr. Tbend was going for science fiction publishers. He's got all his books sorted by publisher in book number order (not ISBN, this numbering system predates that).
reply by troutbend on Jan 9, 2013 12:08 PM ()
Am a great for dreaming in my sleep a heck of a lot i can remember , if i can't nod off i have a story in my memory that i started years ago that i add to, seems to help put me to sleep guess it must be boring i only get one chapter in before i drop off, fair dinkum--
comment by kevinshere on Jan 8, 2013 3:30 PM ()
Wow! I'm jealous that you can remember the dream and add to it.
reply by troutbend on Jan 9, 2013 12:09 PM ()
In the newsroom, I was famous for coming up with good catchy powerful headlines for stories that were due for publication. There is an art to it. But for a novel, first there would be a working title, a creative placeholder if you will, but it may or may not make it as the actual title. Once the book is written, it takes on a life of it own, and I would think it would name itself.
comment by marta on Jan 8, 2013 2:37 PM ()
I think of it as the title spotting game.
reply by troutbend on Jan 9, 2013 12:17 PM ()
You should write some columns about some of this for mystery magazines. I'd love to read trivia about Nero Wolfe.
comment by drmaus on Jan 8, 2013 2:14 PM ()
I'd like to see a cookbook because Fritz was always coming up with such interesting meals.
reply by troutbend on Jan 9, 2013 12:18 PM ()
You have too much time on your hands!!!! I've got a pile of books to read plus I am writing one (of my 6 published books only 2 have the title with one of those as an opening quote from another author)--I have a load on notes for the one I'm working on so forget about making notes on those I read!
comment by greatmartin on Jan 8, 2013 1:24 PM ()
I'm just glad I'm not spending the time keeping track of all that trivia.
reply by troutbend on Jan 9, 2013 12:20 PM ()

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