The art of telling an entire story with a single word
May 13, 2019 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Merriam Webster speaks to eleven authors who published books with single-word titles. Sadly, Stephen King (Misery) really half-asses it.
posted by Etrigan (22 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can almost feel the tension between "This explanation is terrible let's just cut it" and "Yeah but... Steven King"
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:52 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Interesting round up and array of authors and genres. I've ordered a copy of Queenie and Flâneuse and put Viscous on my to-read list--their explanations are so well-though-out and entertaining to read for different reasons that I have high hopes for the books.

For Possession and Ash, where I had already read the novel, I liked having some of the author's process laid out.

From Jeffrey Eugenides on Middlesex: For years I had a terrible working title for that book, so bad I won’t even mention it here.

This brought back that unsettled yuck feeling I had at the end of Middlesex. Fucking binary, heteronormative enforcement narrative. Ugh.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:55 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


I can almost feel the tension between "This explanation is terrible let's just cut it" and "Yeah but... Steven King"

I can't express how amused I am to read something that short and to the point by Stephen King. (I love his work, truly, the contrast is just a shock.)
posted by mordax at 12:57 PM on May 13 [11 favorites]


Mmm. Eleven of their favorite authors? They started with ten and King's was so bad they decided they needed another one. (Why'd you name the protagonist author's protagonist Misery, King?)
posted by Caduceus at 1:17 PM on May 13


Now for the one-word reviews.
posted by entropone at 1:21 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Well, between Etrigan and Stephen King, one can conclude that Half Assedry requires no cerebrum, cerebellum nor cortex.
posted by y2karl at 1:22 PM on May 13


Now for the one-word reviews.

Mediocrity
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:34 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure the question "Why did you name that book Misery?" really merits more of an answer than, "Duh."
posted by straight at 1:56 PM on May 13 [20 favorites]


A subdued Stephen King isn't necessarily unfortunate. It was either this or he was going to refuse the interview and base 560 pages on what you just made him think of.
posted by es_de_bah at 2:05 PM on May 13 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure the question "Why did you name that book Misery?" really merits more of an answer than, "Duh."

Don't get him started on It.

Also: what, no Irvine Welsh?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:16 PM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Speaking of half-assing it, I like Merriam-Webster, but they basically half-assed this whole thing. Four sentences of anodyne intro text, and then cut-and-paste eleven responses they received from the authors that their intern sent an email to, does not an article make.

“We’ve partnered with eleven of our favorite authors”, indeed.
posted by darkstar at 2:18 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Stephen King has a bunch of books with one-word titles... I imagine his explanations being similarly terse

Carrie... It's about a teenaged girl with telekinetic powers and uh. her name is Carrie.

Christine ... It's about a possessed car that kills people, and uh, it's name is Christine.

Firestarter ... So this girl, Charlie, in the story can start fires with her mind. I almost called the book "Charlie" but then I went the other way.

Cujo ... Cujo's the dog's name.

It ... I could have called this book whatever the fuck I wanted and you fuckers would have still tore it off the shelves. Yeah it's about a nightmare clown spider thingy named Pennywise, but fuck it, I could publish a book about possessed dog-shit and call it "Turd."
posted by wabbittwax at 3:42 PM on May 13 [14 favorites]


Came here to mention IT, see that I've been beaten at the post. I'll see myself out.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:46 PM on May 13


I wonder if King just misunderstood the question (or just decided he wasn't going to help them with a click-baity article and decided "Screw it").
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:20 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Misery struck me as a very personal novel for King, coming as it did during his recovery period. Perhaps he just doesn't like talking about it.
posted by SPrintF at 4:27 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


I can see King arguing that he wrote that book precisely to explore the particular state of misery that comprises chaining, tormenting, and drugging yourself so as to continue to torment fictional characters. If he could have explained it without writing the book, he could argue, he wouldn't have had to write the book.
posted by ckridge at 7:52 PM on May 13 [5 favorites]


Quite honestly, I'm surprised that more people aren't praising King for being terse for once.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


They should have asked Pynchon about V.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 11:45 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Christine ... It's about a possessed car that kills people, and uh, it's name is Christine.

My dude was feeling extravagant the day the possessed laundry machine got an article.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:27 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


I've ordered a copy of Queenie and Flâneuse and put Viscous on my to-read list

Vicious is, indeed, a lot of fun.

Viscous, on the other hand--well, I couldn't get it off my hands fast enough. Too sticky.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 7:52 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


I've ordered a copy of Queenie ...

Another single-titled novel, on a somewhat similar topic, is Fran Ross's 1974 Oreo.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:00 AM on May 14


Possession was interesting (both the book and the explanation).
posted by Chrysostom at 3:59 PM on May 15


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