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I Will Be King

Larkin Lerner

Sylvia Lerner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of all the things I might have picked up on in today’s newspaper:  the tide of 9/11 books entering a soft market,  the Yanks gaining a two game lead over the Red Sox, or the MichiRave  in the NYT, (a term I’m hoping to coin) about The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Of all this, and what am I fixated on? The tiny print next to Chad Harbach’s author photo with the name of the photographer: Beowulf Sheehan. Beowulf?

Okay, I know some kids with funky, literary names like Dante (I actually know two Dantes), and Demian, and I know a bunch of Emily’s named for Emily Dickinson, which doesn’t count because it doesn’t give anybody pause.  I know a Maud for Maud Gonne. I know a Whitman. I once met Miranda Updike named for the daughter in the Tempest.  But BEOWULF? This is bold.  I clearly blew it with my kid. She could have been Trollope Lerner, or Grisham Lerner, or Doris Kearns Goodwin Lerner. Or Janet Malcom Lerner.  Fuck it.

What would you rename your literary self? Or offspring?

47 Responses

  1. I would rename myself Zora or I would go with my real middle name Lafreya. I alway thought Karen was just so plain.

  2. Fuck It would be an interesting, even provocative name, but most courts wouldn’t allow it.

    Coincidentally, my son and I were discussing the matter of first names today at lunch. His mother and I named him Owen, which he said he likes because he’s never in his 23 years met another Owen, though he has heard of their existence. When he was a boy he knew Ryans out the wazoo, much as my generation had two or three Davids on every block (Owen has two uncles David). He said that a couple years back he knew four of something, I can’t remember what. Jeremys, it may have been. But he also told me he recently met a girl named Janissary, to which in my vulgar, barbaric way I replied, “You’re shitting me. What, is her brother named Mameluke?” He said, “Dad, I like that name. If I had a daughter I might name her Janissary. Or Xenaqueenofthenight–all one word.”

    As for my first name, it is not the name my parents gave me and by which I was known for many years. I was Daniel Callis, until my attention was drawn to the fact that there were two other Daniels Callis in North America who were also artists. I didn’t want there to be any confusion in this Googly Interwebby age about which Callis I am, so I legally changed my first name. Tetman Callis–there’s only one of them, so far as I know.

  3. I would name myself Jane which is my middle name. Just Jane. Not after anybody. Bonnie sounds too little-girlish for an old lady.

    My daughter’s name is Sarah. I like it. If I’d had another girl, I would have named her Natalie. I like my son’s name–Rob. Jack, Max, and Sam are my other favorites.

    As a former elementary teacher, I saw some doozies. The worst were the jazzed up “normal” names like Mecheyelle (Michelle) or the Saturday morning cartoon names like Pebbles. (I wonder where little Pebbles is now. She has to be pushing fifty.)

  4. Beyonce. She’s a poet of sorts, right?

  5. For the last decade I’ve wanted to be Breece D’J. I’d even take F. Scott.

    The initials get to me. Must have been working with all those oil men that did it: L.R. and J.B. and F.A. (aka Fat Ass). L.R. loved TicTacs and would offer them to me when he’d offended me. F.A. liked his scotch and waters at lunch so he could tell me what great calfs I had, or that I should be home, “makin’ babies.”

    Or T.C. I love me some T.C. Boyle.

  6. I would name one of my daughters Anais, but I know myself. I’d quickly tire of hearing it mispronounced.

    • That is beautiful. If I had a girl and my husband insisted upon hating my fav girl’s name, I’d take the “s” off Ananias. But then – because I’m Black – everyone would assume I made it up. You can’t win.

  7. Alice Thanet is a good girl’s name, I think.

    Octave Thanet, aka Alice French, was one of the best paid authors in the US,at a time when Mark Twain was still paying to have his books published. The lady was a hoot.

    And Runyan for a boy. No reason . . .

  8. Ignatius (Confederacy of Dunces) was a front runner for my last son. He would have made a fantastic Iggy but we chickened out.
    For a girl, I loved Simone (de Beauvoir) and it was at the top until Eleanor (Roosevelt) pushed her out. In the end, the girl would have been named Penelope for a silly reason.
    Alas, Penelope turned out to be Milo and a fine Milo he is.

    • I dig Simone, too, but I’m more Weil than Beauvoir.

    • I LOVE the name Milo. Isn’t that the title character in The Phantom Tollbooth?

      • It is, but I didn’t know that at the time. It was one of his first books from someone more well-read than I.
        He is the first to tell you that he was named after the main fish on the kid’s cartoon, “Fish Hooks”.
        His brother was also inadvertently named after a character in a cartoon…I should have researched better.

    • I would have guessed Milo Minderbinder from Catch-22. “Minderbinder’s business is incredibly profitable, with the single exception of his decision to buy all Egyptian cotton in existence, which he cannot unload afterwards (except to other entrepreneurs, who sell the cotton back to him because he simply ordered all Egyptian cotton) and tries to dispose of by coating it with chocolate and serving it in the mess hall. Later Yossarian gives Minderbinder the idea of selling the cotton to the government, since “the business of government is ‘business’.”

  9. You sent me both to Beowolf’s website and to the Kakutani review. Here is a classic piece of Kaka from Kaku — actually think about this, about what she’s claiming here. It makes no sense whatsoever. Like so much of her critical writing it SOUNDS like it’s saying something when it is saying nothing at all. I don’t know how she learned to do this:

    “What makes “The Art of Fielding” so affecting is that it captures these people at that tipping point in their lives when their dreams, seemingly within reach, suddenly lurch out of their grasp (perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever), reminding them of their limitations and the random workings of fate.”

    Huh? It’s so affecting because everyone in it is at some heretofore unheard of “tipping point” when dreams that were within reach — huh? everyone’s dreams are within reach? if all those dreams are within reach they’re not dreams — suddenly lurch? Oh, THAT tipping point. Reminding them of the random workings of fate… wait. The dream-lurch that reminded them of their limitations and randomness.

    Well that’s certainly what I read novels for. I always read all the way to the end to make sure the characters get reminded of their limitations. It’s so affecting.

    She is one of the worst professional writers in the history of the planet. A Pulitzer Prize winner no less.

    Meanwhile, go to Beowulf’s site and check out one of his writer pictures, of a certain dancer-poet-novelist named Tishani Doshi. OMG. Unfortunately you also must see the carefully styled and shivery-awful Jonathan Franzen. And the equally shivery-awful plus not as good looking Eugenides fellow. Beowulf’s a v. good photographer, I must say. And then you can find a vid online of Tishani Doshi reading a poem about all the aborted female children of India, that’s actually quite good, though she reads it… in that voice… poets read in…. where no phrase has…. a real beginning…. or end… or any sensible inflection….slight question mark?

    That’s all. Glad you’re back. Got a tan at least?

  10. You sent me both to Beowolf’s website and to the Kakutani review. Here is a classic piece of Kaka from Kaku — actually think about this, about what she’s claiming here. It makes no sense whatsoever. Like so much of her critical writing it SOUNDS like it’s saying something when it is saying nothing at all. I don’t know how she learned to do this:

    “What makes “The Art of Fielding” so affecting is that it captures these people at that tipping point in their lives when their dreams, seemingly within reach, suddenly lurch out of their grasp (perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever), reminding them of their limitations and the random workings of fate.”

    Huh? It’s so affecting because everyone in it is at some heretofore unheard of “tipping point” when dreams that were within reach — huh? everyone’s dreams are within reach? if all those dreams are within reach they’re not dreams — suddenly lurch? Oh, THAT tipping point. Reminding them of the random workings of fate… wait. The dream-lurch that reminded them of their limitations and randomness.

    Well that’s certainly what I read novels for. I always read all the way to the end to make sure the characters get reminded of their limitations. It’s so affecting.

    She is one of the worst professional writers in the history of the planet. A Pulitzer Prize winner no less.

    Meanwhile, go to Beowulf’s site and check out one of his writer pictures, of a certain dancer-poet-novelist named Tishani Doshi. OMG. Unfortunately you also must see the carefully styled and shivery-awful Jonathan Franzen. And the equally shivery-awful plus not as good looking Eugenides fellow. Beowulf’s a v. good photographer, I must say. And then you can find a vid online of Tishani Doshi reading a poem about all the aborted female children of India, that’s actually quite good, though she reads it… in that voice… poets read in…. where no phrase has…. a real beginning…. or end… or any sensible inflection….slight question mark?

    That’s all. Glad you’re back. Got a tan at least?

  11. I’ve had so many names: two adoptive names, four stripper names, one married name, and a spiritual name. It’d be no skin off my back to adopt another, should the need arise. I could get lost wandering in a galaxy of potential pen names. But the name I’ve fantasized about most is my putative father’s name: Cristobal Marzan. I know it’s a man’s name (so what?), but I love the archaic Hispanic ring of it, the initial attack of the hard consonants followed by the rhythmic flourish of its soft consonants, the presence of the letter Z, and the fact that a Hispanic-American writer from the South seems to be literary catnip.

    • If I’d had a girl child, I would have named her the most literary, artistic, rock-and-roll name, ever: Jane

      The evidence:

      Jane Austen
      Jane Eyre (never read it, but it’s famous)
      Jane Avril (a dancer at the Moulin Rouge, Toulouse-Latrec’s muse, and a previous incarnation of mine)
      Sweet Jane by Velvet Underground (my fave)
      Jane’s Addiction
      Jane Goodall (not an artist but so effing what, she’s beyond cool)
      Jane Says by Jane’s addiction (another fave)—

      all of which give the lie to the moniker “plain Jane,” but which makes the name that much sweeter.

  12. My husband already calls me Toni, which, though it is actually a nickname of a nickname (which I shall not confess here), is more than I could ask for. Otherwise, I love the name Bethany. Which sounds super Narcy, doesn’t it. If it makes it any better, I wished everyone would call me by my middle name when I was younger. I also wished my middle name (Cathleen) started with a K. God, kids are idiots.

  13. I named my third child, a boy, after Carson McCullers. Don’t tell him. He thinks I chose that name because it means strongest, most awesome boy in the world.

    And to the comment above, yes indeed, kids are idiots (my middle name actually is Kathleen, k and all)- but hey, adults can be even more idiotic. For example, each time I married, I changed my middle name, taking the last husband’s name in a sort of social security leapfrog nightmare (do not find yourself in line after me at the TSA check in).

    And, as you know, I often dabble in wholesale appropriation when it comes to identity.

    • Our comment timing was written in the stars. To make me look like a douche.

      Is there anyway you would consider telling us your complete legal name?!

      • Well, right now it’s Suzanne Vitello Soule.
        Before that it was Suzanne Graham Vitello.
        Before that it was Suzanne Kathleen Vitello.
        Before that it was Suzanne Kathleen Freisinger.
        My writing name is, and always has been Suzy Vitello.
        Which one would you keep? I totally was thinking of capitalizing on the Suzy Soule porn-star alliteration thing if I decide to write erotica.

        Since you asked (and I’m sure you’re lamenting that decision) here’s a blog post about marrying one’s way through Europe:
        http://www.letstalkaboutwriting.com/2010/08/marrying-my-way-through-europe-or-what.html

        And, Bethany-Toni, you are totally not a douche!

  14. I’m an Ivan Pope, which always worked on so many levels, but I hanker to have the courage to write using my middle name, which is Alexander.
    Alexander Pope, now where have I heard that name before.

  15. btw, I’m Ivan Alexander Pope – my mother used to ask me (rhetorically) ‘When are you going to stop being Ivan the Terrible and start being Alexander the Great?’

  16. Please I’d take anything other than Bobbi but what do I expect from a mother named Joni? I absolutely hate my name. My last name is French which in France is très drole but there is also a porn star named Bobbi French so it’s a lose-lose situation I’m afraid. So literary or not I’d be happy with anything that doesn’t make me sound like a cheerleader or someone who regularly follows NASCAR.

  17. Pseudonymous. Pseudo for short.

  18. Certainly not John Kennedy Toole. I’d avoid Breece DJ’Pancake, although I do think it’s kinda cool. I always liked the name Emmett, largely because of the clown, Emmett Kelly, but also because I admire the founder of the Diggers, Emmett Grogan, whose autobiography “Ringolevio” left an impression on me. Alas, my wife’s niece named her first born Emmett, so the name is already taken (Em and I are good buddies, too). Gabriel Garcia would be alright, but to tell the truth I usually snicker or cringe when I see some of the names out there. The name Snicker isn’t too bad, but since my last name might be Doodle, I wouldn’t consider it.

  19. I thought my brother was pretty weird for naming his son Byron, but it turns out there are lots of Byrons.

    One of my pseudonyms is Elfine, which I thought I made up myself, but I found out later is a major character in Cold Comfort Farm, one of my favorite books.

  20. I named my son after a literary character: Shane. I’ve loved that name and the Alan Ladd western movie ever since I first saw it as a kid. I still do. The movie still holds up beautifully. I finally read the book only recently. Book’s pretty good, too. Shane is a name I would have given myself. Don’t know how my son feels about it, though.

  21. there were four amys in my kindergarten class…thus the amyg (to differentiate myself from amy m., amy s., and amy h.). my mom claimed i was named after amy in little women; but, really of all the daughters, i like to think of myself as more of a jo.

  22. I recently met a Wolfgang.

  23. Agatha after Christie

  24. I like all my names and nicknames but Virginias get teased a lot when they are younger. (They called me Virgin for short but not for long) I named my daughter Francesca and there is another Francesca Llorca, a male, that lives in Spain and she chats with him on facebook. I was born in Bethany Hospital.

  25. When you’re the post-empire Marion Ettlinger AND you look good on a surfboard, you can totally get away with Beowulf. Otherwise, it’s just an engraved invitation to get your ass kicked. Ditto: Rumer, Kassius and fucking Inspecktor Pilot, but I’m getting off-topic.

    I’m judgmental about lit-ty offspring names. Also literary tattoos. I’d love to discuss this further, but Stet has an appointment at the vet.

  26. J.C, J.D., T.S., M.F.K., initials and the name George those are the lit name examples I follow. Women and last names are not on a first name basis. Mine has changed so many times–birth, adopted, married, divorced and married again–I only care about initials and the beard name George.

  27. My paternal grandmother’s family had this tradition of naming their male children after famous Irish writers & rebels. My dad hated being named after a rebel (conservative that he was), but I have discovered that plotting the family tree has been an amusing lesson in who was ‘in vogue’ at that time.

  28. How about a daughter named George Eliot…I’m not sure you could do that to a baby. Maybe name your son… it would be lost on most people, but so what

  29. Pontiff Foghorn Fischer — boy, I say boy, I am not a chicken, I am a writta. Come on ova here boy and let me tell ya somethin’. But I don’t think I would do that to any future offspring. I still have a little compassion for living creatures. But not enough to actually have offspring (trust me, the universe, and anyone who reads this, is probably sighing with relief.)

  30. PS —
    “Names, names… there are so many names….”
    Al Pacino, The Devil’s Advocate.

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