Tantalizing Titles for Top-Selling Books

Since I’m in a bit of a funk on my current writing project, I thought it might be a good exercise to imagine titles for future books I could write that might really sell.  Here’s what I came up with –

Farenheit 451-2: Revenge of the Books

Reformed fireman Guy Montag and grown-up Clarisse McClellan team up to write books in a special ink that emits a poisonous gas when you try to burn it.  Only book lovers are left behind to “go forth and multiply” a new, literate society.

Jonathon Livingston Seagull Contracts the Avian Flu

In his pursuit of perfection, Jonathon learns that even adorable fictitious seagulls are only human.  While living in a commune with a gaggle of positive-thinking bird lovers, Jonathon contracts the flu from a flock of chickens.  Within weeks, the community is decimated.  The chickens survive long enough to be made into McNuggets.

Treasure Island Penal Colony for Illegal Aliens

Young Jim Hawkins is now grown up.  He has moved to Arizona and become elected governor.  His first course of action is to sentence all “illegal aliens” to “treasure island” where they can “live out their days in peace and harmony”.   President Obama sends in the National Guard to foil Jim’s plans, but a group of Tea Party activists with superior firearms fend them off.

Winnie the Pooh and Man-Eating Tigger, Too

On a manic binge, Tigger eats Christopher Robbins and then leaves the 100-acre wood to stalk London, looking for more game.

On the Road, For Good

A young beatnik, inspired by the work of Jack Kerouac, takes off on a hitch-hiking adventure.  He takes with him three fifths of Jack Daniels, which he consumes before he gets to the highway.  By the first mile marker, he is flattened by a tractor trailer.

Catcher in the Rye (and Kill Her)

Holden Caulfield has had enough of all the “phonies in the world”.  Single-handedly, he occupies Wall Street, all Ivy League schools, the Pentagon, the EU, and the Mall of America.  Only angst-ridden young girls are safe.

Holden Caulfield- The Catcher In The Rye

What do you think?  Perhaps you could come up with more?

Pleasure in (watching) Pain: “The Poetics of Aristotle – IV”, part one

In the first three sections of The Poetics of Aristotle  (which I reflect on here , here and here), Aristotle addresses the form (genre), the objects (characters), and the manner (perspective) of poetics (drama).  Section IV digs into the foundation for poetics.

      Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes, each of them lying deep in our nature. First, the instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood, one difference between him and other animals being that he  is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated.

We learn things by “acting them out”.  Acting things out also brings us pleasure, whether we are the actors or the audience.  I remember from way back playing school with my uncle Geoff.  He always had to be the “teacher”, which was fine with me.  I found pleasure following his lead and acting out my part.

Aristotle continues —

We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited. Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, ‘Ah, that is he.’ For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to the imitation as such, but to the execution, the colouring, or some such other cause. 

Inside the Acting for Film & Television Campus by vancouverfilmschool

People are drawn to both drama and melodrama that acts out human misery.  From the agony of Oedipus killing his father and sleeping with his mother to the latest Jerry Springer episode which depicts, well, people wanting to kill their father and sleep with their mothers (or something like that),  we like to observe others facing moral dilemmas.  More than this, we enjoy watching actors struggle while we’re curled up in the theater seats munching on popcorn and leaning back in the recliner eating ice cream.

Aristotle goes on to examine two aspects of poetics —

      Poetry now diverged in two directions, according to the individual character of the writers. The graver spirits imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons, at first composing satires, as the former did hymns to the gods and the praises of famous men. A poem of the satirical kind cannot indeed be put down to any author earlier than Homer; though many such writers probably there were. But from Homer onward, instances can be cited,—his own Margites, for example, and other similar compositions. The appropriate metre was also here introduced; hence the measure is still called the iambic or lampooning measure, being that in which people lampooned one another. Thus the older poets were distinguished as writers of heroic or of lampooning verse.    

So basically, as a writer of classic drama, you could go in one of two directions.  You could take the “nobler” route, and write of the heroic deeds of gods and men or you could offer “lampooning verse” and playfully expose their weaknesses.

The question I would raise is – “Does the noble path still exist for the contemporary playwright?”  I honestly don’t know enough about modern theater to know how others approach it.  Speaking for myself, I firmly believe all human beings are created in the image of God and, though this image has been seriously stained by sin, there is still the possibility of redemption (and thus nobility).   Certainly, just as the Greeks praise their gods in hymns, we can praise God in songs, dialogue, and action.  So, yes, we can produce plays that imitate nobility.

And we certainly produce satire that lampoons flaws in human figures as well as the false images of God so prevalent in culture.  I just wrote a scene in “Liberty” today I called “An Earnest Faith Healer” that was based on a performance I saw in the freshman talent show at Hanover combined with a story I was told when I attended seminary.  I didn’t find much pleasure in writing it, as I was portraying a very true-to-life example that is so tragically wrong you have to laugh to keep from crying.

I will leave off here and pick up the latter part of section IV in a later post…

(image “Inside the Acting for Film &…”  from vancouverfilmschool, some rights reserved)

A Beautiful Blogger Award (am I blushing, or is my blood pressure going up?)


I just received word that Cathy from Expattery nominated me for this “Beautiful Blogger Award”.  I questioned her whether the nomination was for the quality of writing on my blog or the irresistible pensive expression in my Gravatar image.  She hasn’t responded yet, but I’m going to take my chances.  Either way, I could use the hits.

As with all human endeavors, this love in conditional.  Here’s what I have to do.

  1. Place the Beautiful Blogger Award in your post. (see above)
  2. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them. (done)
  3. Tell 7 things about yourself. (see below)
  4. Pass this Beautiful Blogger Award on to 7 more bloggers. (see further below)

Since my blog is about writing, I’ll make the 7 things about myself relate to my writing life.

1. The first poem I ever wrote was entitled “Ode to My Pet Rock”

2.  In high school, I wrote a parody of my senior class called, No Biggy.  This was before the days of blogging.  I hand-wrote the chapters and passed them around during class.

3.  I published a short story about a suicidal non-published author.  The last page was splattered with blood (actually red food coloring).  The problem was, the journal printed the page in black-and-white and it looked more like something from a Rorschach test.

4.  I co-wrote a collection of stories and poems with a friend under the influence of various substances.  It was entitled The Week That Was (Almost 10 Days).  My favorite poem was “How to Make Instant Pudding”.

5.  For my senior thesis, I wrote a collection of stories called Life (in obvious places) that combined family stories with quasi-fictional characters.  A lovely young woman named Allison served as my muse.  After I handed her a copy of the finished manuscript, she dumped me.

6.  In graduate school, I co-produced and wrote two satirical newsletters “The Institutes: A Publication of the John Calvin Men’s Society” and “Rude Dogma”.  They were short-lived, but one more radical professor deemed  “Rude Dogma” – “better than the book of Leviticus.”

7.  My current manuscript is a collection of meditations on mental illness.  It’s called From Sheol to the Highest Heavens: 101 Devotions for Persons with Bipolar Disorder and Those Who Love Them.  I am currently considering my publishing options.

Now, for my 7 nominees (in no particular order), I decree –

charlottesville winter – a nifty collection of poetry, poetic prose, and prosaic photography.

Peaceful Partings  – spiritual reflections from a seeker for truth and beauty.

Julie Israel – a writer who reads (and reviews) classics to write even better.

Sky Saiyou – various writings and edited photos that looks as good as it reads.

Jessica Wretlind – humorous (and hip) takes on just about anything in the world.

Allen Fiction – contemporary (and refreshingly clean) fictional forays.

One Starving Activist – hungry for inspiration, and finding nourishment to inspire.