The Name of the Novel (2)

Boris Yashmilye’s fourth novel, Out, Damned (reviewed here) takes its title, as you will know, from Shakespeare. Although the name seems obvious for those who know the content of the novel, Yashmilye was actually half way through the book before he thought of it. The original title? Puss Mountain. I do not lie.

Lucky for us, perhaps, that he turned to the bearded bard for inspiration. Or was it? Truth be told, Shakesperean allusions have been done to death when it comes to book titles, as a new study – My Kingdom for a Name: The Complete Concordance of Shakespearean Book-titles – reveals.

To say it is an interesting read would be, I confess, unfair. In the main, the very sight of the book sickens me. But, beneath the topsoil of trollop, a handful of intriguing facts can, yet, be unearthed.

Who knew, for instance, that Ik Nunn once wrote a novella named Give Me My Robe? Or that there are, on bookshelves somewhere, novels called He Wore His Beaver Up, Cudgel Thy Brains and, most curiously, The Elephant Hath Joints, But None for Courtesy? It is a strange world we live in, that the stray words of an Elizabethan playmonger should have provided a lucky dip for desperate novel namers. But so, it seems, they have. How else can one explain Marc Safferini’s Frozen Bosom of the North?

One book missing from this concordance is, of course, Egor Falastrom’s Beauty’s Tutor, which will be published later this year. The allusion in this case is, I believe, to Love Labour’s Lost. More interesting than that, however, is the fact that Falastrom has chosen to depart from a particularly lazy vein of book naming. His last three novels, you may remember, were called Dark Dreams of a Delirious Dog-Catcher, Further Dreams of a Delirious Dog-Catcher and Still More Dreams of a Delirious Dog-Catcher. Can we presume, therefore, that Beauty’s Tutor won’t feature his usual hero, the infamous dog-catcher? On the contrary, says his publicists: this book merely continues the series.

The rest is a bemused silence.


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