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Posted January 22, 2009
entertaining investigations into titles for classics and popular books
One of Dexter's criterion is 'the title should not be explicable by reading the text of the book itself.' Thus, the meaning of or reference to the titles he explains could not be derived, divined, nor inferred by reading and comprehending the book. Among the fifty titles meeting this criterion plus three others are Gargantua and Pantagruel, The Duchess of Malfi, Sonnets from the Portuguese, The Kreutzer Sonata, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and A Clockwork Orange. The titles span all eras, as far back as Plato's Republic from 380B.C., to the 1990s. All genres are included, though titles to single poems have been eliminated. And--another of Dexter's criterion--titles cannot have be taken from quotes. The book is entertaining for any reader and especially for ones in the book trade such as writers and publishers, instructive. Despite its catchy title and content from a newspaper (from the author's column in London's Sunday Telegram), Dexter is often discursive and analytical. The bibliography containing many scholarly or literary articles and books of literary criticism is more than six pages. He doesn't simply give the basis or source of a title, as if answering a riddle or giving a quiz-show type answer. He relates the research he did. He does so partly to authoritate how a particular title came about and partly to support his educated guesswork on how a title came about when there is no conclusive evidence such as the book's author's explanation. Readers will enjoy the interesting, little-known background on classics and popular books Dexter has dredged up.
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