I was reviewing the rules for the Southport writing competition and I see they include the advice ‘Titles should be both appropriate and interesting.’ Who’d a thunk it, eh? No wonder my strategy of using titles that are both irrelevant and boring isn’t paying off.
Then I tried to come up with the most tedious title I could think of, and it is strangely difficult. A List of my Socks – no, somehow you start wondering about these items of footwear. Are they alphabetised or sorted by colour? The old Beachcomber column used to publish extracts from the List of Huntingdonshire Cabmen. In a televised version they got, I think Ralph Richardson to read them, and they were gripping.
What about Some Dream I had once – no, I’m interested already, even though other people’s dreams are notoriously tedious and dreams are a terrible plot deflator. Or Common Houseware Problems – the trouble is that with a title like that, you automatically suspect the author of slyly concealing a very uncommon narrative. The truly boring title has to sound sincere but be utterly colourless. In the end the best I could come up with was A Tale, which seems blandly uninviting. On reflection I thought I could go one better with A Further Tale, which adds the dispiriting hint that you’ve probably already missed any good bits. But I can still imagine glancing at it. So somehow I’m just not getting the real nadir of off-putting boredom.