Like book covers, you think of book titles as aimed at increasing sales. But somehow a little sand gets in the gears and occasionally the industry churns out a mangled product like Living with Crazy Buttocks, Celtic Sex Magic, or Fancy Coffins You Can Make Yourself. There may be a need somewhere for all these books, but I wouldn't want to be spotted at Starbucks with any of them.
Here are a dozen that for the most part I wouldn't even want to get near, much less be seen in public with.
1. Games You Can Play With Your Pussy. Oh, I know, we all love our pussies and they need to have us throw them the random spool of yarn, but who among our friends could dare request this title at Borders with a straight face? What were the authors thinking?
2. Cooking With Pooh. Anything to get the kids in the kitchen, but Curtis Bok wrote a book 50 years ago called Star Wormwood that covered coprophagia, and that book was not for pre-teens. Over the years, Cooking with Pooh has rightly become one of the most popularly abhorred book titles ever. A candidate for world class.
3. Fellow Fags. Here's a case of not keeping up with current events. The cover itself tells us that it's really about newbies in an English public school, but the trouble is that the book was published in 1933 and it seems to me that by then . . . ? Or am I wrong? Or is it a sneaky double entendre that only insiders would get? Again, picture me at Starbucks.
4. You'll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again. I might be a little touchy on this one, since I always draw the line at using "blue ball" as a verb. Is it me, again, or doesn't grammar count even in Los Angeles? Although I have a soft spot for the virginal female, I think this author could have had her cake and eaten it too with a much better title.
5. Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality. Here we have the classic contradiction in terms. The oral sadist, as we know, specializes in chewing not on rugs, as Hitler famously did, but on meatier items better left to the imagination (of non-oral sadists). So it's always a little confusing to find that some oral sadists are vegans and piscetarians. Despite the cheerful cover, I'm thinking of myself out there with my latte.
6. Curbside Consultation of the Colon: 49 Clinical Questions. While we are curbside at the medical community, I'm probably thinking of the unnecessary 50th question: "Do I need to pull down my pants?" I have never even had a curbside consultation with my esteemed dentist-and I could do that easily at a McDonald's. Do I need to take a clue from Freud and go curbside with this book at my bank's drive-up window?
7. The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories. I'm no expert, but I suspect you put two girls and a horse together and things happen. I once visited a very patrician girl's school that had a stable with 90 horses, just so the girls would not get homesick, or lonely. They knew a thing or two. Apparently, this book was meant to be a little campy, and certainly the title and cover live up to that billing.
8. Bander Snatch. Okay, those in the literary know who've gone through the looking glass realize that there should be no space between the words, otherwise you've got a snickering bit of gynecological entendre here. Again, could be a nice piece of sci-fi instead of a specific version of snatch, but who would know?
9. Crapy Cornelia. This one hurts because it is a short (48 pp.) book by Henry James and while the title is not a misspelling, my studies in spelling on the internet tell me that a good proportion of the reading public will not pronounce the name to rhyme with crape, which may be what James was alluding to. However, a read-through leaves me mystified about what he really meant. But isn't that a specialty of James?
10. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Intelligent Design. Here I'm treading on toes, five on each foot, because I'm sure legions will think this a splendid title and rush off to pick up a copy. And, to be fair, I'm sure that any complete idiot will find it exceptional reading. It's just me. Okay? And my Starbucks is across the street from Yale, so again . . . .
11. Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes. I'm as much for going green (when I go) as the next ecologically alert citizen, but I understand that while it was a wildly popular event in Shakespeare's day, reusing graves is now against the law. I can't believe that reusing old graves (apart from new graves) is still a popular attitude in Britain. Next time I'm there I'll check at ICA and see if things have changed.
12. The Dork of Cork. Okay, here is my very favorite. I remember the first time I saw this (very thick) book and scorned it on the basis of its title. But the second time I saw it, just a week later in another venue, I picked it up and began reading, much to my ultimate delight. Chet Raymo is a terrific writer and his eponymous character, Frank Bois, a dwarf in Cork, tells a mighty tale appropriate to the author's profession of astronomer. This is a case in which I hated the title, and now find I can live with it. But it's still a an unpleasant title.