Tuesday 2 September 2008

Really Bad Titles

If you haven't come across this wonderful radio comedy, seek it out - I think it's on digital BBC7 at present, and will surely be back on Radio 4. Ed Reardon is Grub Street's grubbiest, seediest and most desperate hack (his name and that of his friend Jaz Milvane are adapted from characters in George Gissing's New Grub Street), and one of the most vividly ghastly comedy creations of recent years.. But the detail I want to draw attention to is the name of his sole successful novel, Who Would Fardels Bear? This strikes me as the perfect Really Bad Title. There must surely be competitors out there in the world of real books - they may even be Really Bad Titles attached to Really Good Books... An old favourite of mine is an Alan Paton title (which I've never read) - Too Late The Phalarope. Any more?


  1. My daughter is reading a very amusing book now by a comedienne. Title is: "Are you there, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea." Modeled on "Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret." That was a bad title 'cause it was too damn long.

  2. The winners of, and nominees for, the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year are usually good for a laugh.

  3. If you seek anything a bit off-centre in the English (and Gaelic) language, you often need to look no further than Brian O'Nolan, writing between the wars in the Irish Times, either as Flann O'Brien or the much more florid Myles na Gopaleen. Anthony Burgess, a bit off centre himself, regarded O'Nolan not just as a great writer, but a great man. Not sure I would go quite that far.
    I submit 'At Swim Two Birds' as being not a bad title, but one possessed of that quality that makes you think and, hopefully in this case, draws you in to a really marvellous Joycian read.