Monday, June 23, 2008

A Post On Subtitles.

A Post on Subtitles. Explaining in Great Detail Why Such Are the Pits and Should Be Banned by Law.

The best reason is that they irritate me, anger me and make me want to scratch my spinal cord. Why did we suddenly fall back into the Victorian custom of providing book summaries in the form of subtitles? Why? I demand an answer.

The title of a book should be short and redolent of the main message of the book and the emotions it provokes. It should stick in your memory and make it easy to talk about the book. Subtitles don't do any of that. They are crutches, added to keep the wobbly main title on its drunken feet, and I resent that very much.

Subtitles are not that common on the covers of most books, but they sure are proliferating on the covers of books about politics. It's as if readers of political books are expected just to read the subtitle before they go on some pundit show to discuss the book (which they mostly appear not to have read). Or as if readers of political books are viewed as so stupid that the political bias of the book must be condensed into a suitable subtitle. (If you have never heard of the author, you can look at the back cover and check who it is that has been made to recommend the book. If the three names there are all conservatives then you have a conservative book. If the three names are all liberals then you have a liberal book. Or you can check out the publisher's ideological bias.)

Now that was fun. I like selfish rants on my own blog, especially when they do have a point, though I still want to write The Memoirs of Echidne. My Life As An Old Man And How To Stuff A Mushroom If You Must.

Anyway, what this post really is about (after that very long subtitle) is this:

Shelby Steele, author of A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win (Free Press, December 2007), acknowledged that he thinks Sen. Barack Obama "can definitely win" the presidential election, despite the claim in the book's subtitle -- "Why He Can't Win" -- which he said was an "afterthought" that he "regret[ted]" and which he said did not represent the book's thesis.

This silliness is of course all about the real reason for subtitles in political books: They are there to market the book, in this case to those who rather want to see Obama fail and wish to read something that supports that view.