Eric Puchner finds them even among "very gifted writers":
The Great Gatsby is an inspired title, one for the ages, but it wasn’t Fitzgerald’s idea. He wanted to call the novel Trimalchio in West Egg, which sounds like something Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up for The Playboy Channel. An early version of Portnoy’s Complaint was called A Jewish Patient Begins His Analysis. At various times, Catch-22 was called Catch-18, Catch-11, Catch-14, and Catch-17. And some classic novels have stood the test of time, despite having terrible titles. (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, for example, never fails to make me giggle.)
In short, there seems to be very little correlation between producing something brilliant and the ability to come up with a half-decent name for it.
Perhaps it’s a different skill set entirely. I sometimes think there should be professional titlers: Just as we wouldn’t ask a carpenter to tar the roof of our house, we shouldn’t expect writers to work outside their métier. But even if the perfect title is destined to elude us, I do think it’s possible to identify a bad oneeven, I think, to lay out some basic ground rules for what to steer clear of. So, based on years of teaching, I’ve compiled the following list of Titles to Avoid.
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