Since the ’60s, bands have tried on book titles for size, with results inspired (the Velvet Underground, from a book on s&m by one Michael Leigh, a copy of which was found lying on the Bowery by a VU associate) and maybe not so much (the Doors, from Huxley’s The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell). Now comes a mirror move. In perhaps the first significant titling trend since the fin-de-siècle proliferation of occupational-sounding tags (The Intuitionist, The Verificationist, The Catastrophist, et al.), there’s a batch of current novels that sound a lot like band names: Duncan Sprott’s The Ptolemies, Keith Ridgway’s The Parts, George Hagen’s The Laments. This fall sees David Gilbert’s The Normals and Voice contributor Samantha Hunt’s debut, The Seas.
The titles of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments (1987), Tom Perrotta’s The Wishbones (1998), and last year’s The Anomalies (by Joey Goebel) matched the names of the fictional groups contained within. But a more obvious trigger for this recent naming craze might be the success of Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001), the 21st-century domestic novel par excellence. Franzen slugged his Oprah-proof third novel, in part, as a tip of the hat to William Gaddis’s 1955 omnium-gatherum, The Recognitions; indeed, black sheep Chip Lambert’s e-mail handle is “email@example.com.”
But The Corrections (and yes—this spry columnette derives its slug from the novel) actually belongs to a substrain of books fitting the template “The ____-ions.” Here ye olde Connector gleefully mentions two fellow ‘ionic bonds, repeat-read-rewarding novels picked up, in the first place, because of their titular similarities to that Gaddis tome of yore: Harry Mathews’s The Conversions (1962) and Robert Kelly’s The Scorpions (1967). So you, with the guitar! Start a band using one of these—oh wait . . . (Cue: “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2004