Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Working Title

I hate judging books by their cover- no, that’s not true.  I love judging books by their cover.  What else are you supposed to judge a book by, other than its cover?  All you can know about a book without actually reading the thing is what’s on the cover.  This includes the cover design, artwork and synopsis.  You don’t want the synopsis to say too much- oftentimes I learn too much about the plot and never want to get further into it.  Like when that Mission: Impossible 4 trailer came out and it had Tom Cruise talking to Jeremy Renner about how Renner’s character “is not what he appears”.  Sorry, no matter what happens after that moment in the movie, I really don’t care.  If the plot of the movie is that bad that they don’t care about revealing what appears to be a huge spoiler, then I don’t care to watch it.  It’s just become, unabashedly, a big-budget, special effects laden, money-grabbing Tom Cruise vehicle.
So there’s definitely an art to how you sell your piece of entertainment.  And it usually involves bordering on subtlety.
But this leads me back to how I judge books.  I usually judge them first by their title.  If I find the title interesting, I’ll probably read the synopsis, and so on.  But I’ve become wary of a group of bestselling books which I don’t respect the titles of.  Stieg Larrson’s trilogy of The Girl… novels kinda get my goat, not with any respective title of theirs, but with where I thought the theme of the titles was going.  The first one is of course called The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  What he seems to be implying with this first title is that the next novels are going to be named after some other aspect about her- say: The Girl with the Piercing Eyes or The Girl with the Spiky Hair.  It really wouldn’t have to be anything deep, at least in the literal sense.  But it would have been deep figuratively, because it didn’t tell me anything except that there was probably more to her than that.
But where he does go with these ideas is completely ineffective in enticing a reader such as myself to want to read more.  My first thought at why this could be was that maybe he was thrown by the success of the first book, so the titles were thrown together somewhat haphazardly and that’s why they didn’t have the expected overarching direction.  But then I remembered that he’s actually dead now.  And I don’t think these books enjoyed any commercial success outside of Sweden humously (is that the opposite of posthumously?).  What he does do in calling the next books The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and The Girl who Played with Fire, respectively, is that he tells us something in the title about what it is she’s going to do.  I don’t think that’s a very good strategy, because as I’ve always found in title or headline writing, the old adage holds true- less is more.  All that should ever be referred to in the title, I feel, is the main character (or characters), and the situation they’re put in. 
I do feel as though I can draw from at least one or two examples of good titles, even speaking as someone who hasn’t read all of these books.  The Bourne Trilogy has a good series of titles, insofar as the titles themselves tell you almost nothing about the plot of the book.  Take The Bourne Identity- there’s a guy named Bourne and he has an identity.  Or something.  But regardless, my interest is peaked.  (Just thinking about that series, it makes me angry that the second movie ends so far into the third one. Gah!)  And in the Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, Douglas Adams names each book after something the reader heard in the first one, and the titles themselves may not have anything whatsoever to do with the characters, plot, or circumstances of the particular novel.  But you still want to read them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Looking Around My Room

I want to overanalyze a couple things here.  This being one of the first times I have sat down to just write, without a pre-set idea, I’m going to take this opportunity to just look around my room and describe the various decorations I have bestowed on it.
Firstly, there are two posters.  They are both from my old room back at my parents place, or as I’m not ready to completely forego calling that ‘home’ in some fashion, The Old Homestead.  The first one is a poster of a Plymouth Prowler, a car which I’m not sure they make anymore, in part because I’m not sure if Plymouth even exists anymore.  It’s a pretty cool-looking car, painted yellow in my poster, which, for cars, was and still is the new red.  This poster could have been a foreshadowing of me buying for my first car a make that is no longer in business, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.  The only observation I have on the poster itself and how it applies to me is that I don’t have a real affinity for cars, new or old- I think I just like things that are backswept.  I played with Legos a lot as a kid, and all the space ships I made had to be backswept. When I was trying to choose a favorite food, for instance, I think I went with pizza over hot dogs for that reason.  And for a while I thought humans were poorly designed because they walked upright and therefore weren’t very aerodynamic.
But that brings me to my second poster.  It’s also of a vehicle that is streamlined, out-of-date and 100% American.  The F-14 Tomcat.  It’s a relic of the just-past-the-Cold-War Era, where we probably still weren’t so sure about Russia and what they might do.  The ironic thing about this one in comparison to the poster of the Prowler, is that by my standards it would not have been streamlined enough for me.  It has two tailfins and has wings that can spread out or fold back.  In all honesty, it’s pretty slick.  But the plane probably cost a little more to build than the Prowler, and I definitely know, or at least knew a lot more about fighter planes back in the day than cars. Top Gun was definitely one of my favorite movies in my younger days, and I know that Maverick flew an F-16 Fighting Falcon, a plane that I definitely wish I had a poster of.  This obsession with fighter planes is probably either a result of, or a cause of being a conservative, and to an extent a war hawk.
There’s really only one more thing that almost purely serves the role of a decoration in my room right now.  In my sophomore year of high school I was in a sculpture class.  I had always considered myself creative and I wanted to see how it transferred to visual art.  For the most part the class went pretty well.  I tried hard in it, as I did in the rest of my classes, and I liked most of the projects a fair amount.  There was origami, some more two-dimensional things, and I remember we built a chair.  But when she asked us to sculpt a head out of clay, I was very hesitant.  It took a long time, as I recall, and there were several hiccups along the way.  Our teacher went from saying hair was not necessary to We should try to do it.  (I didn’t, but I still liked it.)  And when I was hollowing out the inside of the sculpture, I almost went all the way through it, but still managed to save it.  The end result was a B grade, but I think I was more satisfied with it than any other art project I’d done before or since.
The other purpose it serves however, is allowing me something of my own to toss around and potentially break, though I still haven’t yet.