• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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And I Try And I Try And I Try And I Try

Though I am a fully functioning human being to all outward appearances, I’m in that half-mummy, half-zombie state. In other words, I am in search of the perfect sub-title for a book I’m about to submit. The title, in this rare case, is a no-brainer. And I’d tell you what it is, but I can’t. The title is straightforward so the subtitle doesn’t need to explain it so much as offer some promise. There are all the usual sub-title variants:

How to Go Fuck Yourself

Seven Steps to Fucking Yourself

The Rise and Fall of Your Fucking Self

A Journey of

The Road to

The Path of

The Way of

A Meditation on

A Ballad of

A Song of

Notes On

The Philosophy of

The Psychology

A Short History Of

I will show off and say that my sub-title for Food and Loathing was brilliant:  Food and Loathing: A Lament. It was so brilliant in fact that the publisher made me change it on the paperback to the vomitrocious: A Life Counted Out In Calories. I cut this deal so they wouldn’t put mini shakes, burgers and fries on the jacket. You’re actually glad to see a book go out of print with that shit on it.

Do  you have any feelings about sub-titles one way or the other?  Did I miss any?

57 Responses

  1. My subtitle became my title, and the book is the better for it.

  2. Fucking Yourself for Dummies?

  3. They can be beautiful and brilliant. And the decision should be opened up to the whole publishing house. I’ve attended meetings where editiorial assistants zeroed in on a beaut while the higher-ups ran in circles.

  4. The cherries are terrific!

    the complete idiots guide to fucking yourself
    one woman’s journey in fucking herself
    when to stop fucking yourself and why anyone should care

    When it comes to subtitles and taglines, I myself like imperatives. Not the one-word+period type that Kinkos (no, I shant call them FedEx Office) plasters about: Pack. Print. Fuck. Die. But the more aggressive ones, with a clause:
    Why you must eat here now, or fuck yourself blind.

    Good luck, Betsy. A Lament was brilliant. And again, love the cherries!

  5. I like unexpected subtitles like “A Lament.” I’m hoping to stray from “A Memoir” for my memoir.

  6. you missed “a fanciful memoir” — but it’s mine so don’t use it!

  7. “Do you have any feelings about sub-titles one way or the other?”

    A temptation perhaps to be avoided.

  8. I’m not offended by subtitles but a title that NEEDS a subtitle is like a joke that needs explaining.

  9. I think Dickens had good sub-titles. But to be honest with books these days—boring. I just tried to start reading Beckett, boring. Gee-Whiz, life makes no sense. Or rather, I am going to torture you with the fact that life makes no sense. Boring. Are there any books that are not vampire, wolf-man, over-done OLD stories? Stories, why do people need them? Their life is that boring? I finally got Food and Loathing from the public library. Good start. A loathing is a great sub-title. I’m two chapters into it. The one thing I’ve gotten from that book is I’ve been reading too many 19th century books. Simplify! Simplify! Actually, that sentimental hippy that runs The Sun first told me that, in a polite rejection, And apparently he was right. For that kind of crap.We’re all happy and right, and all mothers are good, and pretty and sad in pictures. If that is true, please, someone kill me. I think A Lament was well fought and won. Good work. Work, what a concept. In all honesty, all you writers can go fuck yourself, no one cares about your sadness except those that do. Shoulder that.

  10. A misanthropic case for fucking yourself.

  11. Fucking Yourself: A fallback plan for the fallback plan.

  12. Fuck:a novel

  13. Your Title: If you don’t get it, don’t read it.

  14. A Screed
    A Screed Offered at Piercing Volume
    An Indictment and, Yes, You’re Included
    Heed or Die– Your Choice
    A Relentless Journey to the Heart of One Man’s (Woman’s) Bitterness, Resentment, and Rage
    A Mind-Numbing Journey to the … etc
    You Want to Be Dead? Yeah? Then Go Ahead, Don’t Read This

  15. You forgot “The Adventures of”

    “A Lament” was an excellent subtitle. Hits the right nerve. Not cute.

    Subtitles (post 1876) are often just too darn cute. They cutify the title, usually a title that would be totally obscure otherwise. I am getting annoyed with one word titles followed by cute subtitles. I may be a crank.

  16. Celibate: Or How I Learned to Stop F*cking and Enjoy the Calm

  17. Zen and the Art of Fucking
    What to Expect When You’re Fucking
    What to Expect When You’re Fucked
    The Life of a Fuck
    The Joy Fuck Club
    Eating Well
    The Biggest Fuck
    Diary of a Fuck

  18. Writing great titles is a talent, like being a great singer. We can all sing and a lot of people are great singers but a lot ain’t.

    I never had any trouble writing a news story, but would often turn to one fellow reporter with a tremendous talent for titles. She would invariably come with something ten times better than anything I could think of, something short and punchy and to the point.

    There should be a job title, a position for such a person like Titular Head of Titles. (I’m sure someone else can think of a better title for a title tinkerer.)

    • Back in my newspaper days, the copy desk wrote the headlines. And thank goodness for that, because I just suck at them. So I won’t even attempt to add to this conversation today. I can’t even decide on a TITLE for my novel; don’t make me think about a subtitle.

  19. I am soooo tired of seeing the “f” word everywhere.

  20. Never use ’em.

  21. I’m a sucker for an obscure quote, something that you may not understand right away but that piques your interest.
    I like things with a little mystery, Fucking About Town, rather than My Journey of Fucking.
    I cringe about journeys and paths, too self-help, but then that could be the target audience.
    I just finished Food and Loathing and it was fantastic. Your writing is so clean and concise. Well done, and good fight for Lament. That suited it perfectly. Life in Calories is too cheap for the heart you put in there.

  22. You missed The Mystery of.

  23. A life in two parts
    (Or two farts. That’s my daughter’s suggestion for any word that ends A-R-T).

  24. To Frak or Not to Frak
    Frak all the Frakkers
    Meet the Frakkers
    Frakking Hilarious!
    The Joy of Frakking

    Okay. I need to stop.

  25. how about “Reflections on blah, blah…”

    I like short subtitles and don’t like the recent trend of lincredibly long subtitles that take up the whole jacket….here’s the subtitle of the book I’m reading, “A Natural Year in an Unnatural World.” Nice..

  26. Dispatches from _________

  27. Yes, short and sweet works well.

    Another one that always stuck with me was Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story.

  28. I agree with SpringChicken. I associate subtitles with remainder bins.

  29. I can take them or leave them. I don’t love them, though.

    A particular weirdness is fiction books having A Novel after the title. Really?

  30. Subtitles with footnotes are excellent.

    (Photo conjured lost summers and Betsy’s Bombeck: If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?)

    Subtitle for abandoned book: Advice for the Foodlorn. Title was Constant Eater (as in constant reader, as in “Tonstant weader fwowed up.”)


    Einstein can go fuck himself!
    Give me some fucking oatmeal!
    Fuck you and your cat!

  31. Oh, oh. What about the fad of adding ‘a love story’ to everything?

    Tax Evasion: a love story
    Beginner Knitting for Prison Inmates: a love story

  32. I love titles, period. So many people are obsessed with book covers yet I rarely pay attention to them. But the title? Very important to me…

    And those are cherries? OMG, I thought they were apples…..either I need my eyes checked or I’ve lived in Florida too long where the primary fruit color is orange.

  33. Okay, most importantly: When can we read your new book?? And what is it about??

  34. Hi, new here, directed to this gem of a blog from one of my readers who has a good eyes for gem identification.
    In my humble so-not-an expert, probably-don’t-belong-on-this-thread opinion, I think subtitles are superfluous vanity. The title will make you pick up the book, the subtitle never will. But what the heck, I’ll throw my pennies in anyway:
    Fuck the cherries, I want the bowl.
    or perhaps,
    Fuck: The aftermath

  35. A non-starter for me.

  36. I’m glad you said that “a life measured out in calories” wasn’t yours. I hadn’t been able to put my finger on it, but that clunker had bothered me in what otherwise is a stellar, life altering book.
    You need subtitles for non-fiction, you just do, especially for magazine articles since editors try to be cute with puns and double entendres in titles. Nobody would have a clue as to what the thing is about. Avoid alliteration, however, no matter how tempting.

  37. My subtitle was the best thing about my book, Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt.

  38. I prefer the holy trinity when considering subtitles: “Hansel, Gretel, and Everyone Inbetween”- like, ya know?

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