Book Meme Day 28: Favorite Title

Ah, the story title. Is it merely a way to distinguish one from another, or can the title be considered an actual part of the artistic work itself? Ideally, it should be the latter. A great title sticks in your mind, creates whole images and feelings before you’ve even read the book, and once you have read the book, the great title evokes not just its content, but its beauty and themes. It should also be unique, a title that could not be applied to just any kind of story. It should be a phrase of beauty on is own merits, and gain depth of meaning when connected to its book.

My favorite in this regard is Out of the Silent Planet, the first of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.

Yeah, I don't get this cover either.

Close your eyes and say it aloud. Enunciate each word boldly. Let the poetry of the words suggest to you what they may. What do you see? Please, tell me. I think this phrase is wonderful. Out of the silent planet. It could be the beginning of poem, and what a poem it would be! “Out of the silent planet he comes…” or maybe “Out of the silent planet I fled…” or even “Out of the silent planet we hear…”

Lewis provokes so many questions with this title, and to the benefit of the reading public he answers them all, and in such a magnificent fashion!

We are used to thinking of planets, but not as things which may be heard. Lewis’ title steps immediately beyond that fascinating idea to tell us that this planet of which he tells us has had its sound cut off and stifled. What kind of a sound does a planet make, and for what purpose? Has this planet always been silent, or did something cause its sound to cease? And what entity or event could possibly be so powerful as to silence it, and why?

If the title was only The Silent Planet, it would be enough to single this book out from others on a bookshelf and engage my interest. But it is that “Out of” which really does it. Someone is leaving or has left the planet which makes no sound (as other planets presumably do). Have they fled? Are they exploring or in exile? Many science fiction books deal with people leaving a planet—that is no surprise to us. But this leaving is connected to the planet’s silence—the title implies this by mentioning the facts together. Is the person who has left the Silent Planet fleeing the Thing which made it so? Is that person bound to the silence of his planet? If there are aliens living on the other non-silent planets, how will they react to this human sojourner?

Perhaps most importantly of all, will the Silent Planet ever be heard again?

Honorable Mentions: The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

10 thoughts on “Book Meme Day 28: Favorite Title

  1. Once again, I am caught between shame and rejoicing: shame that I can think of nothing so lovely to say about titles of things, at least not at present; rejoicing that you can, and do, and share it with us…as well as rejoicing for Lewis having alerted us to the music of the spheres…as well as rejoicing for the significance of prepositional phrases!

    1. You are far too kind, ‘Psichore, but I’m very glad to bring you such joy. +) Your own post on Orual was exceptional and made me wish I’d spent more time exploring Sir Gawain (or perhaps, considering my peculiar emotional attachment, Aquila from The Lantern Bearers). It’s really been a pleasure, an education, and a spiritually edifying experience to read yours and Mel’s posts. I’m so glad we did this meme!

      Huzzah for powerful prepositional phrases! I really must use them better myself.

  2. Good one!

    The title The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes to my mind. It just sounds delightfully quirky. I’ve never read it, but I’ve heard it’s good.

  3. Completely agree David; there just something poetic about the title “Out of the Silent Planet.” Even before you read the book, it gets you thinking; triggering your imagination. Not surprisingly, it’s also helped to make the Iron Maiden song of the same name one of my favourites, haha!

  4. Lewis had a gift for titles, even more than his overall gift for words (which was extraordinary). Till We Have Faces, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mere Christianity, and as you say, Out of the Silent Planet. So many of his titles have a life of their own.
    Perhaps I have him to blame for my constant inability to title my stories. If the titles do not hum with that low, thrumming life, I am not satisfied. Sadly, I lack his gift. Bleh.

    1. I think I can probably come up with pretty good titles, just not necessarily for the stories I’m actually writing. In fact, I’ve got a whole Word doc for unused title ideas. Some examples: “The Blue Calamity,” “Lark in the Star,” “Travail of the Reluctant Spaniard.” No stories for them yet, but it sure is fun to ponder them and brainstorm more. +) You should try such a brainstorm; maybe you’ll find something that actually fits what you’ve written/are writing. At the very least, you’ll have some fascinating-sounding titles that characters could reference within one of your stories.

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