A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either veneration, an official position, or a professional or academic qualification.
- There are titles that are functional but still do the trick: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Kon-Tiki, The Godfather, Hawaii, Inside Asia. And then there are titles that contain a touch of music, of poetry, of magic: The Naked and the Dead; The Agony and the Ecstasy; Gone with the Wind; Song of Solomon; The Garden of Eden; The Sound and the Fury; Look Homeward, Angel; The Last Hurrah; From Here to Eternity; Listen! the Wind. There are titles that resonate in your mind, that call to you. Title intrigue was certainly a part of the great appeal of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery series. What youngster could resist titles like The Hidden Staircase, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, The Secret in the Old Attic, The Tower Treasure, Footprints Under the Window? There are memorable, off-beat titles with a twist that sparks our curiosity: Breakfast at Tiffany's, As I Lay Dying, Is Sex Necessary?, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Cheaper by the Dozen, and It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It. There are titles that through a single word, or an enchanted combination, capture a beauty, a feeling, everything about a time or place: Tales of the South Pacific, Lolita, The Guns of August. There are titles that prick our prurient interest — Jacqueline Susann was getting quite good at these before she passed away: The Love Machine, Once Is Not Enough. There are titles that a friend has to explain to you— "See, Mag, 'dolls' are pills, you know, uppers, downers, amphetamines." "Ohhh! Valley of the Dolls; I get it!" "Port- nay's Complaint I get it"— and so begins word of mouth. Some titles even become a part of our common parlance: Life Begins at Forty, The Power of Positive Thinking, Catch-22. "A good title is the title of a successful book," Raymond Chandler once commented. M After the fact, after the book is successful, its title seems the natural and obvious title for that particular book. But before the fact? That's another story.