Sunday, August 10, 2008

An Author's Entitlement

I'm not sure whether to laugh, cry, or just despair at the news that the chick lit author Jenny Colgan, was advised to change the title of her new novel, from the rather excellent "Cinderella of the Old Kent Road", to the rather terrible, "Diamond's are a girls best friend," partly because it won't play well in Australia (clearly their Monopoly is full of Wagga Waggas and Ayre's Rocks) and partly because Tesco preferred it. Yes, Tesco! We all know that authors get very little say in their covers, their marketing campaigns etc, but you kind of think you can get a say in your title. Poor Toby Litt, up to "I" in his alphabetical titles, imagine, if the supermarket gets iffy about his "J" or "K"? Authors - being - like - the people who write the words would, you think be able to claim an entitlement to er...titling those works. Mind you, Fitzgerald's titles for "The Great Gatsby" included "Trimalchio at West Egg" which sounds more like an album track by the Hold Steady than one of the classics of American literature. I'm a great fan of titles, whether writing a song, a story, a poem or a novel, and can't imagine giving them up to a 3rd party, though I've changed a number of story titles where the original gave too much away. Put that down to laziness. When you nail a title, I sometimes think you nail the piece, or at least tie it a little less precariously to the earth. Anyway, I reckon Shane Macgowan could write a great song called "Cinderella of the Old Kent Road," - Jenny should give him a call.

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