That Titular Moment

status-anxietyYou know that moment in a book when you realize where its title came from?  Sometimes it’s just a catch-all theme.  Sometimes it emerges as an idea.  Sometimes it’s an actual line in the book.  For some reason, I always find this moment exciting.  It makes me giddy.  I will often mark it with one of my ever-present Post-Its, just so I can come back and relive the moment later.  That’s how much I love it.

Something else I like, along these lines, is when you will come across the moment in the book that provides the title and gives the title meaning, only to realize the way you had originally perceived the title, out of context, was all wrong.  A recent example that comes to mind is Alain de Botton’s Status Anxiety (in fact, I talk about this at some length in my broader review of that book).  I read it thinking it was talking about a status of anxiety.  But in fact it was talking about having anxiety regarding your status, as in your status in the community.  A subtle distinction, but that’s where I spend most of my waking hours…in the land of subtle distinctions.

Another very recent example is in Miranda July’s The First Bad Man.  I just read the line: “The first bad man.” (p. 91).  When I originally read the title, I thought it was referring back, generally, to the original bad man, like out of all the bad men.  But when you read it in context (a context you would have to read the first 91 pages of the book to fully understand), you realize she is not referring to bad men generally, but a particular type of bad man (think “bad guy”), and as to one of three in a particular scenario.  I know, I know, this makes no sense out of context unless you have read the book.  But these little nuances and shifts in perspective make me smile.

It was this or rant about technology and how I hate screens and video games and how, because of them, my kids ignore me.  I was going to call it “Anti-Technology Tuesday.”  This seemed more therapeutic.  That is all.

One thought on “That Titular Moment

  1. Just experienced this again in Sarah Vowell’s “Unfamiliar Fishes.” It’s a part of a speech about a native Hawaiian back in the late 1800s, concerned that the white man is going to take over their country and ruin their people. Yo!

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