At one time or another, parents require the reassurance of that longstanding nutritional theory (that Junior’s current fixation on nothing but peanut butter or cheese or oranges or cereal, etc. merely indicates his body’s pursuit of a particular vitamin or mineral).
You’d think that an empty nester with reasonable eating habits could jettison any such concerns, yet I appear to be driven by the corollary regarding fiction consumption. I suspect my system to be deficient in literary dread. Not usually a fan of thrillers or plot creepiness, I subconsciously seek that element wherever I look.
How else to explain that when I observed a publisher’s ad for The Unexpected Houseplant, I entertained visions of a gargantuan carnivorous bloom commanding “Feed Me”? (Alternatively, I wondered whether a posthumous manuscript by Edward Gorey may have just come to light.)
But no. Closer inspection revealed Unexpected Houseplant‘s subtitle: 220 Unexpected Choices for Every Spot in Your Home–also tastefully demure botanical cover art. I was strangely disappointed.
My craving could also account for a similar letdown: Colm Toibin’s just-published New Ways to Kill Your Mother (subtitle: Writers and Their Families). Once I’ve read something like Zombie Island and restored my equilibrium, I’ll pick up favorite author Toibin’s latest and appreciate it on its intended terms. In the meantime, it’s heartening to learn that my advance copy of Diana Wagman’s The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets actually does feature a startling seven-foot iguana and that Christopher Coake’s ominously titled new You Came Back delivers a truly nightmarish scenario.
Always an easy mark for a witty book title, I award extra credit to those new and forthcoming offerings referencing Shakespeare (The Evil That Men Do) or employing wordplay (Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, SEAL Team 666). And, for sheer attention-getting value, one has to acknowledge Grandad, There’s A Head on the Beach.
Alexander McCall Smith (The Full Cupboard of Life, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built) consistently charms with titles that could have been lifted from Victorian texts–or perhaps hastily translated from a foreign language. Due out in October: The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds.
Though, fortunately, good titles usually designate good texts, especially clever names–like Gary Shteyngart’s (2011) Super Sad True Love Story–can be so perfectly calibrated to the book’s tone as to invite misinterpretation. When I nominated Super Sad for a book group’s upcoming slate, a male participant countered with, “Nooooo! No chick books!” Not to worry, guys.
And here’s a tip for anyone (miraculously) unaware of the buzz surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey. It isn’t about interior decorating.