Comments on Titles

Catch-22 was originally the more flowing Catch-18, but Leon Uris's Mila 18 came out the same year, so Heller was forced to change the number. He thought about Catch-11, but this was nixed because the original (dreadful) Ocean's Eleven had recently come out. His editor finally suggested Catch-22.

Hemingway's original, and vastly superior, title, Fiesta, was deemed too obscure by his US publisher, so he changed it to The Sun Also Rises. Fiesta remains the UK title.

Is Absalom, Absalom! the worst title of all time?

Here are some of the titles Fitzgerald tried out before settling on The Great Gatsby: Under the Red, White and Blue; Among Ashheaps and Millionaires; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; The High-Bouncing Lover; Trimalchio's Banquet; and On the Road to West Egg. He actually changed his mind at the last minute back to Under the Red, White and Blue, but it was too late. One wonders whether The High-Bouncing Lover would have achieved the same iconic status.

The Hours was Woolf's original, and better, title for Mrs Dalloway. Michael Cunningham nabbed it for his Pulitzer-winning novel, later made into a fine film.

Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion has an epigraph from Gilgamesh: ". . . I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion," but there is another reason for the title, unstated in the book: one of the old yellow brick waterways under Toronto was named The Skin of a Lion. See this interview with an urban explorer on the (lovely) BLDG BLOG, and scroll down to the end.

We can thank Ezra Pound for encouraging T.S. Eliot to change He Do the Police in Different Voices to The Waste Land.