Monday, April 18, 2011

The thing that's the thing

I'm terrible at naming things. In college, I named my cat "Godot" only because I was reading Beckett at the time. When I was about 6, my grandmother gave me a cute, Snoopy-like stuffed animal, which I promptly (and inexplicably) named "Bill."  And before that, when I was about half that age, I named my favorite baby doll "Lucifer." Yup. Technically, I think Lucifer was the Devil's name before he was cast out of Heaven (?). But I digress slightly. (My mom laughs about it now, but can you imagine her reaction to my three-year-old self, all pudge and pigtails, toddling around, proudly tending to my dolly "Lucifer?! In my defense, I think I was probably aiming for "Lucille" but landed on the Prince of Darkness. Nice.) The point is, I suck at this stuff, and I don't know why. Is it because most narratives are judged by the title? (i.e. stupid title=stupid story?). Is it a manifestation of my social anxiety and fear of first impressions? Could be.

Most of my short stories bear the name of the protagonist. Not very imaginative, I know. But I come from a long line of lousy namers, so I must be genetically predisposed, or something like that. So it goes with this blog. I could not come up with anything. First, I'll say here that I hate puns in titles. Coffee shops are the worst, what with the "Bean Counter" or "Daily Perks" or "Back to the Grind" and whathaveyou. Ugh. Writing blogs run a close second. "The Write Stuff" or "Write Now" Blerg. Hate that. Literary references are better, but they have to be done well. A great example of how to create a stupid literary reference was my next idea: "Bruno's Answer." A nod to my favorite writer, Aleksandar Hemon's collection of short stories, The Question of Bruno (get it now?). Yeah. Dumb. And dorky.

But everything else I came up with felt self-important or heavy-handed. And it's just a blog. About writing stuff. I'm not discussing the latest antiretroviral cocktail that I'm developing for HIV patients.
I'm just thinking out loud.

But then I started flipping through a JD Salinger novel and found the phrase "Jump-seat masterpiece" (somewhere, an estate lawyer perks his ears). I had underlined it years ago, for some reason (anyone remember the movie Heathers? What was the word Heather I was supposed to have underlined in Moby Dick?). And it seemed somehow appropriate. Maybe equal parts ethos, pathos and logos? No? But catchy nonetheless? Maybe?

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