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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prosody

A copy editor asked me if I wanted to change the title of my article "Was Lorca a Poetic Thinker?" to "Was García Lorca a Poetic Thinker?" or "Was Federico García Lorca a Poetic Thinker?" I said no. I didn't title my book "Apocryphal García Lorca." That would have sounded awful. My next book is not going to be "What García Lorca Knew." Rhythmically, those titles just don't sound right to me.

It's complicated, because Lorca and Galdós are unique in being known primarily by their maternal surnames. Not quite unique, because I've heard Biedma for Gil de Biedma. It is wrong to say Gassett for Ortega y Gassett, but it's fine to say Ortega. It's wrong to say Márquez for García Márquez, or Llosa for Vargas Llosa, but you can't say "García" for García Márquez or "Pérez" for "Pérez Galdós."

Anyway, I think I was right to stick to my prosodic instinct in this case.

3 comments:

Clarissa said...

Besides, if a person who is buying the book doesn't know who Lorca is, they probably shouldn't be buying the book.

Of course, you could always title it "Was Federico García Lorca, a noted Spanish poet of the Generation '27, a Poetic Thinker?" :-)

Jonathan said...

It's not a question of knowing who Lorca is, because the addition of García doesn't really clarify matters if you don't already know. It's more a question of a false pedanticism. The really pedantic people, like me, know that Lorca is known as Lorca.

fjb said...

A related case, in English -- I would be more inclined to write either "Shaw" or "George Bernard Shaw" than "Bernard Shaw," but one does see this, even in book titles.