Owls sideways – problematic titles

Ever had the experience of being judged because of the title of a book you were reading in public? I’m not talking about serious literature types being busted with a copy of the latest Mills & Boon (although if any of you of the penis persuasion have had that experience …), or even the experience I had a few years ago at the Blood Donor’s Centre, where I was reading a book called How to Make a Life as a Poet – seeing it, one of the nurses sniffed audibly and said “well I suppose they have to” … and since she was about to stick a needle into me, I didn’t feel like outing myself. But that’s not what I’m getting at here. I’m talking about the books with titles that just make you want to slap the author (and/or publisher) and bellow WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! into their collective auditory canals. Books where the title – not the cover design (that’s a whole ’nother post) – makes you seriously unwilling to be seen reading it anywhere in public. Ideally, books that you do genuinely want to read. (So no jokes about “The Wit and Wisdom of George W Bush” – let’s just forget he even existed, ok?)

I’ve had a near miss at being in a book like this. A couple of years ago there was an anthology of erotic haiku being put together. Someone (who’s identity I will disguise by referring to him only as Child Cyrils) persuaded me that I had a couple of haiku that should be submitted. Thinking I was in good company, I duely sent in a couple of poems. And was very happy to have one selected, right up until I saw what they were planning to call it:

In Her Panties.

Yep. Not a hell of a lot you can do to reclaim dignity after that.

Fortunately they changed their mind, and the book was released simply as Erotic Haiku, so I’m willing to have my copy sit spine-out on my bookshelves.
Actually I have even more reason to be glad about the name change – it was published when we were in the process of moving back from the UK, and my contributor’s copy was sent to my mother-in-law …

The book that prompted this post is one I haven’t come across, but a review of it by ‘Chatterbox’ popped up in the hot reviews panel on LibraryThing … it’s called In Defense of Flogging, by one Peter Moskos. And what does this have to do with owls? Think back to Owl Reviews – it’s the idea of judging the thing by something that isn’t quite the point.

Actually, rereading the title of this post … am I going to get some more weirdos leaving comments here?)
(And what do people who click to this post think they’re going to be getting‽)

The possibilities for fraught social intercourse are endless …


5 Replies to “Owls sideways – problematic titles”

  1. Mmm. I’m about to have a book released in November. The title Deadly Beautiful came with the assignment to write a popular book about dangerous animals with a conservationist slant. I was happy enough with the title. And wrote a text determinedly resistant to the schlock-horror-they-bite/sting/eat-you! genre. Then the publishers suggested the subtitle ‘Charismatic Killers of the Animal Kingdom’. Shame! All credibility gone for good. Luckily after strenuous negotiation we settled on ‘Vanishing Killers of the Animal Kingdom’. As you say, OWLs are dangerous animals. P.S. I love the Gary Mex Glazner books.

      1. No worries, Publisher is Exisle – N.Z. based with an Oz list. And they’ve been excellent to work with, I must say, charismatic notwithstanding!

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