Ben Yagoda bemoans the increase not only in subtitles but in the length of subtitles
Elongated voguish subtitles are harmless enough, but I miss the time, not so long ago, when it was possible for a book to go out into the world with only a strong title followed by a few hundred pages of outstanding writing. That was certainly the tack taken by most mid-20th-century nonfiction classics: ”Hiroshima,” ”All the President’s Men,” ”The American Way of Death,” ”The White Album,” ”Elvis,” ”Dispatches,” ”Joe Gould’s Secret,” ”The Executioner’s Song,” Lillian Ross’s ”Picture,” ”The Right Stuff,” ”The Soul of a New Machine,” ”The Kingdom and the Power,” just about everything ever written by John McPhee, and a book that, were it published today, would tote a subtitle like ”The True Story of How the Ivy League Elite Developed Strange Ideas About the World, Got America Into Vietnam, and Messed Up Foreign Policy for a Long Time.” Back in 1972, David Halberstam called it ”The Best and the Brightest” and then shut up.
I wonder, would it comfort him to know that as a reader I rarely pay attention to the subtitle?
How sad is this? The NY Times reviews a new book by moral philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt called On Bullshit but the Times won’t even print the whole title, censoring itself to “On Bull—-.” They even make a little fun at themselves for censoring it. Who are they sparing here? I think it utterly ridiculous and an example of the bullshit Frankfurt is writing about.