Monday, October 18, 2010

Pardon My French

The recent publication of Justin Halpern's book Shit My Dad Says--a collection of bon mots from Halpern's wildly popular Twitter feed--got me to thinking about books with titles that make you sound...well, rude when you ask for them at the bookstore information counter. I've come across quite a few over the last decade and a half or so, and--after weeding out titles from the Sex and Erotica sections which, simply because of the nature of their content, are likely to shock, offend, or titillate--here are what I consider to be the best. (Okay, okay, I'll  give you my two favorites from the aforementioned categories: Getting a Little Behind and The Cunning Linguist. What can I say? I have the sense of humor of a twelve year old.)

Beginning with the mother of all bad words, I give you the f-word.

Rumor has long held that Fuck, Yes! (subtitled A Happy Guide to the Acceptance of Everything) was actually written by counterculture darling Tom Robbins. I've never seen any actual proof to this rumor, so credit for the authorship of this self help/new age novel remains with the Reverend Wing F. Fing (get it?).  LibraryThing user Darkman writes, "This is a twisted, often educating, book that certainly would be more known had it not had "fuck" in the title. Perhaps Fing wanted it that way....." You can read a truly hilarious excerpt from Fuck, Yes! here.

The cover of the American edition of The Fuck-Up by Arthur Nersesian is discretely designed so that the F of the title appears on the book's spine while the rest of the word is on the front cover. Clever booksellers, of course, quickly realized that placing a spined out copy immediately to the left of a faced out copy would render the word complete. Amazon's product description calls this book an "underground literary treasure [which] is an unforgettable slice of gritty New York City life...and the darkly hilarious odyssey of an anonymous slacker." I reserve any judgment, but consider it to be the best mainstream use of the f-word in a title I've seen. 

 Skinny Bitch, a diet book, and Why Men Love Bitches, a self help book, are both completely mainstream and quite popular.  Still, there are any number of people who find it terribly embarrassing to ask for them, dropping their voices to a whisper when they get to the last word in the title.

Cunt by Inga Muscio, on the other hand, is a manifesto of sorts.  Girls--I mean, women who ask for it usually do so proudly (and sometimes quite loudly).

Now for the, shall we say, dirtiest of the dirty words. One is a book of hilarious sound bites that the very clever and enterprising Justin Halpern first published as a Twitter feed and then purveyed into a book and a TV sitcom. Good for you, Justin Halpern! It's a brave new world...

The other is an amusingly titled book packed full of very real information to help backpackers be part of the solution to the problem of pollution in the wilderness.  Subtitled An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art, the author takes us through discussions of both why and how to responsibly take care of our business in the woods.

And finally, the word that I, myself, avoid saying at any cost. Hey, it's the worst one I can think of.

Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the "Narcissus" is unfortunately--but, for its time accurately, titled. When a West Indian sailor falls ill on a voyage of the merchant ship Narcissus, the humanitarian sympathies of some of his fellow sailors are pitted against the attitude of the ship's captain and others who believe the good of the ship comes first. 

Comedian and social activist Dick Gregory's memoir is bluntly titled and bluntly told. It is still studied in high schools across the country.

Randall Kennedy, who is a law professor at Harvard University, caused a bit of a stir with his study of the n-word when he published his book Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. It is a thought-provoking and fascinating study of the implications of this word and its historical and contemporary uses.


bookdout said...

Quite a collection! I just bought Halperns book.

vickilikesfrogs said...

Hi, Frog Lady! I gave you an award over at glitterfrog!

Nikki-ann said...

I can't imagine having to ask for any of those titles... but then I guess that's where places like Amazon come in! :)

Paperback Writer said...

Hello... thanks for stopping by via the hop last week. sorry its taken me so long to respong. THanks for being a new follower. I am now following you back! looking forward to future posts!

Paperback Writer said...

Hello... thanks for stopping by via the hop last week. sorry its taken me so long to respong. THanks for being a new follower. I am now following you back! looking forward to future posts!