Today’s entry appeared on the Guardian’s book pages – it’s a look at books that I consider to have misleading titles (others may disagree). I was hoping for lots of good suggestions from the comments on the Guardian website, and there were some very different responses there. My favourite, without a doubt, was from WelshPaul and said this:
Great Expectations wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be.I’m still laughing.
Anyway, this is how the article began:
As debates swirl around the TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird prequel, it’s easy to forget the strangeness of those familiar titles. But misleading, mysterious and downright secretive titles are nothing new.
|Stoner - miserable but not drugged|
Sometimes, an author is overtaken by time. When John Williams’s Stoner became a cult classic in 2013, many readers thought they were picking up something like William Burroughs’s Junkie. But Williams’s protagonist, William Stoner, is completely drug-free and living out a low-key life on a university campus in the US midwest. The use of “stoner” to refer to a marijuana user seems to have developed in the 1970s; Williams published his book in 1965.
When it comes to titling a book, some authors look for a double meaning. Edward St Aubyn’s Some Hope asks the reader to decide whether he suggests the novel does offer some hope, or means quite the opposite: “Some hope of that happening!”
The Dud Avocado – not about below-standard foodstuffs
The Lady Baltimore – not about the titled heroine of a romantic comedy
Other titles are deliberately vague, such as JG Farrell’s The Singapore Grip. Near the end of this 1978 novel, the third in Farrell’s British colonial trilogy, the Singapore grip is alleged to be a sexual manoeuvre, but the author implies it can mean many things. (The book is now largely forgotten, except by journalists in search of a gripping headline.) [NB Readers BTL at the Guardian argued that he is not forgotten, and I'd be delighted if they're right.]