As I’ve noted here frequently, book and movie titles, like brand names, follow fashions and formulas. One of the longest-running contemporary trends is the “girl” title, a favorite for at least six years now. New examples (all published, or slated for publication, in 2021) include The Girls I’ve Been, Girl A, Black Girl Call Home, The Other Black Girl, Girlhood, Sunshine Girl, and The Girls with No Names.
The Declarative Sentence trend is more of a rising star, not yet overwhelming the best-seller lists but already inspiring imitations. The formula is: [Personal Name] + [Form of the Verb ‘To Be’] + [Phrase or Phrasal Verb]. The three examples that caught my attention—all novels written by women—use the present tense of to be.
Edie Richter is Not Alone, by Rebecca Handler (2021). (Disclaimer: The author is an acquaintance, but I haven’t yet read the book.)
Tip to proofreaders and self-publishers: In title case, all verbs—including all forms of to be—are capitalized. Or you could opt to set the title in all caps, which is another publishing trend.
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It, by Elle Cosimano (2021)
Fleishman Is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (2019)
Contenders that bend the rules a little include Everything Will Be Okay (just published) and We Were Never Here, scheduled for publication later this year, which use future and past tenses, respectively, of to be and substitute pronouns for personal names.
One of my favorite comic novels has a negative declarative title: Tepper Isn’t Going Out (2002) is Calvin Trillin’s ode to finding a nice parking spot and hanging on to it. That may not sound like much of a premise, but trust me: It’s very funny.
From Mel Gussow’s February 12, 2002, review in the New York Times: “When [Tepper] stops outside Russ & Daughters, a real-life appetizing store on Houston Street, people come to him and sit in his front seat asking advice. In other words, he is a kind of guru in situ.”
I could write for the next 50 years and never come up with anything as good as “guru in situ.”
In other publishing news, Belt Publishing founder/owner Anne Trubek reports that current guidelines recommend that titles and subtitles be 80 characters or shorter, so they fit on one line on mobile. She suggests an edit for Marx’s un-trendily long A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy: “Eat the Rich.”