Friday, March 28, 2008

Table-talk of Parkus Grammaticus for March 28

In his Brainiac column*, Josh Glenn picks up the thread of the title commonplace "secret history," which I wrote about in the introduction of my review of Ekaterina Sedia's The Secret History of Moscow. He looks at the "secret" titles of today, as well as some from yesteryear:
During the 18th century, French and English writers cranked out dozens of tracts and treatises with boffo titles like "The Secret History of the Court and Reign of Charles the Second, by a member of his privy council"; "The Secret History of the White Staff, Being An Account of Affairs Under the Conduct of some Late Minister, And of what might probably have happen'd if Her Majesty had not Died"; and even "The Secret History of the Calves-Head Club, Complt. or, the Republican Unmask'd. Wherein is fully shewn, the Religion of the Calves-Head Heroes, in their Anniversary Thanksgiving-Songs on the Thirtieth of January, by them called Anthems; for the Years 1693, 1694, 1695, 1696, 1697, 1698, 1699, &c. With reflections thereupon. Now published to demonstrate the restless, implacable Spirit of a certain Party still among us, who are never to be satisfied 'till the present Establishment in Church and State is subverted."

My original intro began: "After 'American,' the most overused but irresistible prefix for titles might be 'The Secret History of.'"

Which reminded me of...something I'd written. Hadn't I "riffed" on "American _____" before? Yes! In this PTSNBN review of a movie called American Chai!
"With this magic title of Paris, a play or review or book is always assured of success," noted Théophile Gautier of 19th-century entertainments. Today, with the simple adjective American, even the least inspired movie can cloak itself in way-we-live-now significance.
So "Paris" used to be the "American" of its time....(The T.G. quote is from The Arcades Project.)

I haven't been registering all my "26" finds—but here's one: The blog for Yale's Beinecke Library.

Idea for best book title: The Secret History of 26.

What about that movie Chapter 27?! Why 27????

VI. There goes Oulipian Simon:

Much of this album is 12-tone pop. Mr. Simon assigned himself to put every note of the chromatic scale into the melodies, and did it so suavely that the stunt goes unnoticed. –Jon Pareles, NYT

*Column titles are written with initial caps, no quotation marks!

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Blogger Hannah said...

The protagonist of All the Real Girls has slept with 26 women.

In Harriet the Spy, one of Harriet's neighbors has 26 cats.

5:08 PM  

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