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Book 3

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)

Page count: 681.

I was walking through the Barbican Library in search of something else altogether when this book's title caught my eye. How appropriate for a book about book titles to have a catchy title!

This book is precisely what it's title claims: Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles. Dexter discusses, in chronological order, fifty books' titles. Most are quite well known; a couple I had never heard of. Dexter's matter-of-fact style is inobtrusive and often witty, allowing the stories to tell themselves but, when a title's background isn't very interesting, occasionally faltering. Dexter is clearly widely well read and the quality of his scholarship is apparent. Sometimes the source of a title is fairly straightforward, but often the process winds its way through some unexpected turns. It is fascinating to see Dexter piece some of these puzzles together, and many of the anecdotes are delightful.

Oh, and the answer has to do with Leon Uris, to whom the young unpublished Heller had to defer.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 31st, 2008 04:26 am (UTC)
The title is the one part of a book the author has the least control over. He cannot copyright the title and the publisher has the final word on what title will be used when the work is published.
Feb. 24th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a very fun book--the structure would make for a good framework on which to hang anecdotes about authors, books and the publishing industry. I'll have to look it up!
Feb. 24th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
And he does do just that. All three, and more.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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