A Brief Taxonomy Of Book Titles

taxonomy book title

When writing a story, sometimes titles come easily, other times hard. This is something the self-published author has to think about. Traditionally published authors don’t need to get invested in the title. Marketing departments will decide for you.

Here’s a secret: many, many, many titles are changed once a publisher gets hold of them. In fact, every single one of my book titles has changed, if you can believe it.

from Alison Winn Scotch, writer

Well, I will admit to thinking that if Marketing truly had their way, the title for every book would be an artless string of words broadcasting its selling appeal. The Hunger Games would be called ACTION PACKED DYSTOPIAN LOVE TRIANGLE.

from Boxcars, Books and a Blog
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What is the meaning of hermeneutics?

The theory about interpretation of texts is called hermeneutics. The word alludes to the name of the Greek god Hermes who was the messenger between gods. Hermeneutics thus emphasizes that a message needs someone to carry it, someone to explicate, to elucidate, to interpret. A hermeneutic analysis involves pointing out and explaining how what we read or otherwise perceive embodies a meaning. The main premise of hermeneutics is that in extracting a meaning from a piece of art we alternate between the whole and the details.

For instance, when we look at a painting, we can start by perceiving it as a whole, noting the general composition, theme, color scheme, and so on. Provided that we are interested enough in learning more about the painting, we may then study the details, for instance each depicted object, figure, or shape; the foreground and the background; the particulars of hues and saturation; the individual brushstrokes (or other technique); and so on. However, if we stop at this stage, our perception of the word will be fragmentary. Therefore we must go back to studying the whole, this time with a better preconception, since we know more about the constituent parts of the whole.

In studying a literary text, we also usually begin with the whole: the storyline, the central characters, and their role in the story. When reading for pleasure, we often stop at that. Working with the text professionally, as critics or teachers, we will most probably go on to study the details: composition, characterisation, narrative perspective, style and underlying messages. We may go still further into particulars, for instance, and only examine metaphors, or only concentrate on direct speech, or only investigate how female characters are portrayed. Such a detailed study is, however, only fruitful if we afterward go back to the whole, and hopefully we will then have a better understanding of the text.

Aesthetic Approaches to Children’s Literature: An Introduction, by Maria Nikolajeva

hermeneutics is from Hermes

THE HERMENEUTIC CIRCLE OF READING

Why do children read the same book over and over? No, it’s not to torture parents and teachers! Here are some pedagogical and developmental reasons why. It’s to do with what’s known as ‘hermaneutic reading’.

cat-reading

1. COMFORT

There is great comfort in the predictable, especially before bed or when other things in life are changing.

2. TO GAIN BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE TEXT

At some point many readers must realise that there are far too many books in the world to continue reading the same ones over and over (although I do know middle-aged Tolkien enthusiasts who read Lord Of The Rings every single year). Children who ask for the same story over and over are often getting more out of it each time. This experience is especially valuable with adult input during some of the readings. Story book apps with auto-narration are especially useful in this process, because adults have a smaller tolerance for repetition than their children.

The Hermeneutic Circle

Camp vs Kitsch

camp kitsch

What is the difference between ‘camp’ and ‘kitsch’?

CAMP: A PREFERENCE FOR REVERSAL AND REJECTION OF SINCERITY

I was listening to a podcast recently — I think it was one of the 99% podcasts — when someone in interview started talking about something being ‘camp’ and I realised I have no idea what the word actually means. I thought it described the behaviour of stereotypically gay men, in relaxed, social mode. But no. I still had no idea what it meant, even after listening to a lengthy discussion about it in relation to architecture.

But then, a few weeks later, I came across ‘camp’ again in an essay about David Bowie:

Camp is notoriously hard to define, but in most conceptions it involves both a sense of doubleness — things are not merely what they seem to the naive viewer — and a preference for reversal — the very bad now reinterpreted as good. Camp makes most sense not as an aesthetic style — like classicism or modernism — but as a mode of apprehension or a hermeneutic. It is a way of understanding or interpreting the world. Historically, camp emerges in gay subculture where it functions as a kind of passive resistance to the straight world, much of the cynical humor of the Russians was a form of passive resistance to Stalinism…. Transvestitism for obvious reasons lends itself to camp interpretation, and the embrace of artifice over nature is a convention of camp taste… camp interpretation requires a lack of seriousness and the rejections of sincerity.

from Goth: Undead Subculture

(Hermeneutic is another word which I keep having to look up.)

This is probably the best description of camp that I have seen, because it describes how it relates to gay culture, while explaining in clear terms the wider context.

Camp David cover, camp vs. kitsch

In her book about fairies, Troublesome Things, Diane Purkiss describes the practice of purchasing fairy items and jewellery for little girls: “The parents I know justify the purchase of this lavishly doubtful product by using the phrases ‘camp’ and ‘tongue-in-cheek’ a lot, by which they mean that the violation of taste canons is so glaring as to be no threat.

In children’s literature we don’t tend to use the word camp to describe this ‘reversal’ of the established order; we use the term carnivalesque. Though they are slightly different, I now consider them very much related as concepts.

Hetereosexual Camp Things In Modern Culture from The Toast

KITSCH: CRAP THAT PEOPLE UNACCOUNTABLY LIKE

Another word I have trouble defining — apart from ‘I know it when I see it sense’ is kitsch.

From io9:

Fantasy has a problem – it is inherently kitsch. What do I mean by kitsch? Crap that people unaccountably like. The dictionary defines kitsch as tawdry, vulgarised or pretentious art usually with popular or sentimental appeal. Unicorns, wizards, put upon young wretches who come to be great mages, haughty princesses, riders in dark cloaks – Robert Jordan, if you want it summed up in two words.

There is an inherent snobbishness in the word kitsch. Worse than snobbishness, perhaps:

Critics’ widespread distaste toward kitsch springs from an unwillingness to tolerate any kind of emotion that is seen as too sentimental or “sweet.” 

The Problem of Kitsch by Maranda Bennett (who argues against this idea)

So what’s the opposite of kitsch?

In going the other way, in trying too hard to be ‘realistic’, honest, gritty or meaningful we end up over-reaching ourselves and the monster eats us anyway.

There. Now I have a definition for ‘gritty’. I’m just going to say it’s the ‘opposite of kitsch’ and be done with it.

The Celebrate Doilies exhibit at the Spellman Museum, Forney, Texas
The Celebrate Doilies exhibit at the Spellman Museum, Forney, Texas

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Cute and kitsch – Laurie Taylor asks why objects and phenomenon which come under these headings have such a hold and a fascination, from BBC4

Pyrrhic Victories and Tragic Dilemmas In Fiction

pyrrhic victories

A pyrrhic victory is a ‘victory’ in which the costs of winning are so enormous that winning becomes an ironic term. In the ultimate pyrrhic victory, the main character has achieved what needs doing but is dead by the end of the story. The hero can ‘transcend’ what in the real world we would call a victory.

Some people think that successful stories have to have happy endings. This is simply not true if you look around at what’s popular, even out of Hollywood. Pyrrhic victories are extremely common.

A subset of pyrrhic victories are stories in which the main character faces a tragic dilemma.

pyrrhic victory
cartoon by Poorly Drawn Lines

Tragic Dilemmas

Moral philosopher Bernard Williams argued that there exist many situations in life where something won’t work, where we are just stuck and there’s no way out.

  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus — A great king has to either betray his army by abandoning his expedition to Troy, or sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, because the goddess Artemis was preventing the wind from blowing the right way, and demanded this price.
  • Sophie’s Choice — perhaps the most obvious example of a tragic dilemma — expressed even in the title. Sophie has to decide which of her two children is to be sent immediately to the gas chamber.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire — Writer and critic Joseph Wood Krutch, in appraising Blanche, says, “Her instincts are right. She is on the side of civilisation and refinement. But the age has placed her in a tragic dilemma. She looks about for a tradition according to which she may live and a civilisation to which she can be loyal. She finds none. Ours is a society which has lost its shape.”

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Moral Dilemmas in Children’s Literature