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Before the Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Willie Elliott

Titles Can Be Fun

I am an eclectic reader. I don't know what that means, but readers are always saying that so I just assume it applies to me. I just like to read a lot of different things. But since this column is supposed to be about titles in some form or fashion, let's talk about titles.

One of the things I like to read is books that are made up of columns that authors do for newspapers. The leader in interesting titles has to be Lewis Grizzard. I'm sure you have had days when you felt like the title on one of Grizzard's books: Elvis Is Dead and I Don't Feel So Good Myself. Another thing I like about these collections is how easily they are turned into a book. Grizzard wrote columns for the Atlanta Constitution, and after about a year or so he had them compiled into a book and sold them all over again. We can all appreciate the analogy that Grizzard made between our lives and the need for an oil change in If Love Were Oil, I'd Be About a Quart Low. What better way for some of us to sum up our genetic origin than My Daddy Was a Pistol and I'm a Son of Gun? Even if you don't like Grizzard's writing, you have to appreciate his titles. Go to and type in Lewis Grizzard and get a chuckle out of the titles of his other books. For the record, he passed away several years ago.

An interesting thing happened to me concerning one of Grizzard's books. I was at a department store (no not Wal-Mart as this happened before the advent of Wally World). I was reading one of his collections of essays and got rather far in the book, as I could read a complete book in two shopping trips with my wife. Right there on the page Grizzard had a note for me: "If you have read this far, go directly to check out and pay for the book as I need money to buy some Gucci shoes." I felt as if I had been caught with my hands in the cookie jar.

Then there is Dave Barry with such books as Dave Barry Is Not Making This Up. Barry uses a formula for his columns with such expression as “I am not making this up” and “This was sent in by an attentive reader.” Yet we read him each Sunday and then buy his books when they come out.

Another book that got my attention simply by the title was The Joy of Pigging Out by David Hoffman. After all those diet books, it was a relief to find a book that appealed to the gluttonous side of the debate. Both Barry and Grizzard offer reading that can take the whole evening or just one or two columns. Nice books to have by your bedside.

Since I have joined MyShelf, I have started doing audio books. At first it was hard to keep my mind on the book, or the reader would have such a nice voice, he/she would put me to sleep and I would have to listen to the CD all over. I developed a method for listening to audio books. My wife and I are on the road all the time, not long trips but just local drives that take up a good portion of the day. We put the CDs in the car and play them as we drive along. This can lead to distractions. One day I was listening and drove twenty miles in the wrong direction from our destination. Two books that I really enjoyed, (and I think part of the reason the books were so successful is because they were read by the author), are Call Me Ted by Ted Turner (Willie's review) and Losing Mum and Pup by Chris Buckley about the death of his father, William F. Buckley, and and his mother, Patricia Taylor Buckley. Ted Turner did a fabulour job giving the reader a sense of who he is and what he stands for. Chris Buckley illuminated the life of the Buckleys, whose life and activites were not what I would have expected. He pointed out their lives with all the fleas and ticks but also with the love that was always near the surface.

If you find a book with a title that captures your attention, let me hear about it. Maybe we can start a list of books with catchy titles.

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