Friday 9 January 2009

Crazy Name, Crazy...

This morning, on the train, I was sitting opposite a woman who was reading a book called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Dear God, I thought vaguely, is there no end to these whimsically titled middle-brow novels? And is there anything much more to them than their whimsical titles? Alexander McCall Smith has a lot to answer for - not to mention Louis de freakin' Berniere (Captain Corelli's Mandolin was a double whammy of surefire title and surefire author name - how could it fail?)...
I thought no more of the Guernsey L&PPPS. Until, just now, I discover that it is soon to be Radio 4's Book At Bedtime. This is, of course, absolutely no recommendation - most B At Bs are clunkers, and even the rare excursions into the past can't be trusted to deliver the goods (a dreadful John Galsworthy is under way at the moment). Anyway, I had a look on Amazon to find out more - though I'm not quite sure what I've found out. See for yourself here. What is one to make of a book likened by one admirer to Wodehouse, Helene Hanff, Sebastian Faulks and Mary Wesley. Not a lot, I suspect. I don't see the Guernsey L&PPPS elbowing its way onto my reading list any time soon. Meanwhile, work continues on my eagerly awaited novel, The Carshalton Cravat Tying and Owl Handling Society.


  1. I finally stopped buying the deceased arboreal version of The Scotsman when they serialised an A McCall Smith novella / crime story. A person has to draw the line somewhere.
    As for Capt Correli, the movie was eminently missable.

  2. So was most of the novel Malty.

  3. Surely you mean "The Carshalton Gentlemen's Cravat Tying and Owl Handling Club". I suspect "Society" is just too ordinary and so will sink this one. I enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotse novels. Light as a feather, but as with Blandings they seemed about a place where the sun always shone and people were friendly. Except of course for whoever was playing the Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe role.

    Now it's all been hoplessly commercialized with adverts on TV for bush tea et al. I suppose the trick is to come up with something readers will warm to while calling it such a tongue-twister that sellers of teabags and package holidays will leave you alone. Or put pigs in it, sure to confuse the men from Saatchi.

  4. Given the continuing success of long and silly titles, one might consider rebranding literary classics with suitably whimsical names.
    'Tommy Gradgrind and the Coketown Blues';'The Man Who Woke To Find Himself Transformed Into An Insect'; 'Morality and the St.Petersburg Axe-Wielding Society', 'Six Characters in Search of a...' (Wait, no, I think that is the original title)

  5. Never having read AMS's books (though I have a couple lying around, I've never been in a suitably twee mood) I think your idea an excellent one, Nige. Owl handing and cravat tying are popular at the moment and you'd be writing for the market.

    However, addressing Mark's point, I want to know what's wrong with 'Society'. There's nothing ordinary about my appreciation society.

  6. Mark, you've put your finger on the weak point of my title - thanks, that should be worth another 100,000 sales...
    Georgy (newcomer? Welcome aboard) - that is a most excellent idea - I'm sure there are many more that cld be retitled to make them more reader-friendly...
    And Dick, thanks for your encouraging words - sometimes we cravat-and-owl men can begin to wonder if it's all worthwhile. It is of course!

  7. Re AM Smiff, In oor hoose the benchmark for detective novels is Simenon, so there. Maigret Meets a Milord, the definitive 'tec story.

  8. I agree with Mark. McCall Smith's Botswana novels are rather sweet. I hate the ones set in Scotland, though I love Edinburgh.