Thursday, July 31, 2008

Borrowed titles?

I thought the same thing you did when I found that Michael Innes had published a mystery novel titled The Long Farewell in 1958: Here is a respectful tribute to Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye, published five years earlier.

Is it in fact such a tribute? I don't know, but it did get me thinking about title tributes, and now I'll ask you to join me. What books or stories took their titles from lines in or titles of other works and changed them just enough to make a knowing reader smile?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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39 Comments:

Blogger Linkmeister said...

I can't think of any offhand, but I can think of a new post for you: what titles beg to be riffed on?

Spillane's "I, the Jury" becomes "I, the Appellate Court Judge."

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

"Farewell, a long farewell...". The opening of Wolsey's soliloquy in Henry VIII, III, 2, and of the note found by the body of the Shakespearian scholar who has apparently committed suicide in Innes' book. It occurred to me once that it would be rather nifty if Innes' Hare Sitting Up were a tribute to Cyril, but that's a quotation from Lawrence's Women in Love.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

This doesnt really count since its not a borrowed title, but Donna Andrews's "We'll Always Have Parrots" made me laugh out loud when I saw it in a bookshop.

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Rob said...

There's a female version of A Clockwork Orange, called A Clockwork Apple. No joke.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't think puns should count--ever.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

No puns? Ol Bill Shakespeare's in trouble then.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

There are the famous, literary ones, such as Hemmingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (from Donne's Meditations) and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (from Macbeth).

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also from Shakespeare (Richard III),Steinbeck's The Winter of our Discontent.
David Malouf's Remembering Babylon, comes from John Donne.
Many titles of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels are quotes.To say but one,Sudden Mischief from a line in The Faerie Queene.


Marco

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Phillip, I found A Long Farewell in a list of Michael Innes titles in the copy of Hare Sitting Up that I am reading now. I've never read Women in Love, but the passage from which Hare takes his novel's title strikes me as overwrought. Perhaps Lawrence has not aged well.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian and Rob, those are just the sort of thing I had in mind, and I love both your examples. I'll try to drop We'll Always Have Parrots into conversation at my first opportunity.

I did not intend that the borrowed title had to be borrowed from a title. Any old lines will do, and perhaps I'll edit my post to make this clearer. We'll Always Have Parrots should not be disqualified from any list of excellent titles for any reason.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, your whimsical suggestion of "Moi, le juge d'instruction" or "I, Meter Maid" fit nicely with the sorts of titles I had in mind: Not outright borrowings, but borrowings with alterations.

I was inspired by Yeats' famous lines

"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

By my standards, Joan Didion's collection "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is a marginal qualifier, but Peter DeVries' novel "Slouching Towards Kalamazoo" makes it with flying colors.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not realized that John Donne was that fertile a source of titles. I also didn't know where Robert B. Parker got his titles, but it's no surprise that an author who calls his protagonist Spenser should take a title from "The Faerie Queene."

With respect to Shakespeare, so many authors have taken their titles from him that a Web page devoted to this very subject has to break its list into titles taken from each play.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Patti, not even so clever a pun as "We'll Always Have Parrots"? I will say that an author who uses that as a title would be raising my expectations dangerously high. The book would have to be something special to live up to that title.

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Long,Dark Tea-Time of the Soul"
by Douglas Adams

Marco

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, that's another good one. Thanks.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, Chandler himself becomes a candidate for this list if "The Long Goodbye" is Shakespeare's line altered. Or maybe that honor belongs to Tennessee Williams, who wrote a one-act play he called "The Long Goodbye."

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous LauraRoot said...

"The Falcon's Malteser" by Antony Horowitz

"By the Pricking of my Thumbs" and "Taken at the Flood" by Agatha Christie.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for weighing in. The Horowitz title put me in mind of "The Act of Roger Murgatroyd" and "The Mysterious Affair of Style."

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Upon a quick search to verify accuracy, I see that the line in Macbeth immediately following "By the pricking of my thumbs" is “Something wicked this way comes,” a title famously appropriated by Ray Bradbury.

I wonder what is the longest stretch of consecutive lines in Shakespeare from each line of which another writer has taken a title. Fortunately, I know exactly where to begin should I ever decide to pursue this vital question.

July 31, 2008  
Anonymous Timothy Hallinan said...

This is such a great site -- where else would I have learned about "We'll Always Have Parrots" AND the Shakespeare title page? You host a good salon, Peter.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And, unlike in a traditional salon, I don't have to provide hors d'oeuvres or drinks. Many thanks!

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, we think alike. I loved the parrots title so much I was afraid to read the book. Funnily enough I blogged my own attempt at punning infamy just the other day, recalling an article I wrote years ago about decling stocks of baby eels in English fish farms. I titled the article "Elvers Have Left the Building". The subeditor, alas, hated it.

And yes Mr. R. does run a good salon, with the added bonus that he never, apparently, sleeps.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mr. R. also earns his living as a sub-editor, so visitors are advised to mind what they say about that honorable profession.

Oh my god, the punning headlines that I have been unable to get into my own newspaper. My favorite would have accompanied a story about Baghdad's once religiously mixed neighborhoods becoming rigidly segregated. My dream headline:

"On the Sunni side of the street."

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I will send you a check for a fifty bucks if you get that in the paper. I'm begging you, that would make my week.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fifty Australian bucks, or fifty U.S. bucks?

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Either way you'll be able to get a few Yuenglings on me. Do people still drink Yuengling in PA? (A while since I was there.)

"Sunni side of the street" *wipes tears from eyes*

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

People do indeed drink Yuengling, a proud remnant of Pennsylvania's once-flourishing brewing tradition.

Will you make it seventy-five if I can wangle my second-favorite headline? That one would have topped a story about revelations that many children died in the Sichuan earthquake because their schools may have been of sub-standard construction:

"Not-so-great walls of China."

July 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Dark but good.

July 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Like many a crime novel.

And now I shall disprove the allegation that I never sleep.

August 01, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

"dark but good," adrian says.

If you hang around here long enough you'll hear lots of gallows humor.

August 01, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sleep, that is, after a quick cider at the bar.

Linkmeister, the man has written some good but dark stuff himself, I'd say.

August 01, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

My pun was too subtle. "hang" and "gallows humor."

I just started what I think is the first Ian Rankin book I've ever picked up, and it's one of the latest: "The Naming of the Dead." It's certainly holding my attention.

August 01, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I may have to give Rankin another try. I read three of his novels and was not knocked off my feet. I did read a short story of his, "The Dean Curse," that had the wit and concision that I thought lacking in the novels.

August 01, 2008  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Ran across this one, too, in my "titles" tag search. Again, ancient history, but just because Raymond Chandler is my favorite crime fiction writer, I have to add his novel title "The Lady in the Lake," borrowed from the Arthur legend via Sir Walter Scott's 1810 poem "The Lady of the Lake." I like not only the subtle change but how it seems to reflect on Chandler's own deeply R(r)omantic nature.

August 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Chandler is very commonly said to have been a romantic sort, especially when compared with Hammett. I wonder if that tendency to alter very slightly notable lines and titles from great literature is an especial trait of authors and filmmakers from America's Golden Age of crime fiction.

August 05, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Makes sense. Perhaps because they tended to be more widely read than today's counterparts, even the good writers and filmmakers, and thus had more to draw from?

August 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Better read, perhaps, or more willing to draw from their education. Chandler was proud of his own education in England. Perhaps coming from outside might have made him especially aware of English tradition.

August 05, 2009  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I wanted to say "better read" but was afraid it might be politically incorrect... Who are we to say what's better, blah blah blah

And, yes, Chandler was very proud of and quite conscious of the benefits of his English education, as he wrote on more than one occasion. "...if I hadn't grown up on Latin and Greek, I doubt if I would know so well how to draw the very subtle line between what I call a vernacular style and what I should call an illiterate or faux naif style. There's a hell of a lot of difference, to my mind."

August 05, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He spoke highly of the English side as well the classical side of his education.

His ear for the vernacular may not have served him as well when it came to African Americans' speech, at least when it came to setting that speech down on paper, as one commenter suggests here.

August 05, 2009  

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