Reply To: What’s In a Name?” with Stephen Gerringer”
Hi Stephen, Philspar, and All,
What a lovely Mythblast–I find it lovely because I love words and writing and all that they can entail. I will go through the essay again and one by one bring up the thoughts I had while reading it, on its many excellent points.
I too as most professional writers I know or have known do painstake over the titles of their work; this is especially important for a title since it is a concentrated summary of the contents of the piece of work. Sometimes I have played around, however, with weirdly long and fun titles that act like a sentence: Most publications have a 17 or 18 (which one I in this moment forget!) word limit to the author’s title. Different “rules”–or “ways of doing things” are often unspoken in various types of publications, but word-play is often welcome in the creative arts and its publications, such as in the title of a poem (as well as the poem itself) or of a piece of art. Very popular and even encouraged in the currents of the publishing world is to, in a longer title, which usually will occur in a longer work (rather than a short essay), use a colon to say, “Look and Please Read This Title Completely: Herein Lies What This Book is About.” Philspar mentions this idea also in his response to this Mythblast. I like how Philspar writes that, “I’ve always imagined that some of Campbell’s titles were chosen to advertise a book’s climactic argument. I also like it that Philspar mentions Campbell’s title, “The Fire in the Mind.” I guess those can be seen as opposites also and transcendent because we know the fire has to be spirit-fire or soul-fire and therefore a metaphor, so the opposites here mix the physical body or earth with spirit, or any such combination of these words I could try to list. I like the sound or idea of “spirit of the mind.”
One thing I love about the book titles Stephen mentions above is how the singular and the plural nouns in each title demonstrate and give a feel for the one and the many. It gives that cozy feeling of the personal condition in the singular noun juxtaposed with the plural form of the universal condition–exactly as in The Inner Reaches of Outer Space does in its definition/synopsis. The title itself as well as the material then becomes transcendent because it bridges the opposites into that point where they meet as one in the same place and time in one’s experience of being.
I love the Campbell quote from Stephen’s post:
The rhythm of the prose is at the very center of the problem. I wouldn’t know how to instruct anybody, but it’s terribly important. And that’s why, when some goddamn proofreader turns something around, as they very freely do, the top of my head blows off. I’ve sweated it out to have it that way instead of the way that it’s been corrected to. Often what has been done is to restore a style that I have eliminated already. It may be more rational, clearer, but there’s no music.” (Retrieved from https://www.jcf.org/resources/discuss/topic/whats-in-a-name-with-stephen-gerringer/#new-post)
I used to write for newspapers in arts and entertainment and community/human interest stories, and I have felt what Campbell has expressed here, not so much, for me, about newspaper editors and proofreaders as about copy editors. One largely circulating paper I wrote for had copy editors that sometimes rewrote my titles which I felt did not adequately target the main point of my article and sometimes the inner content got botched or chopped up to an “all is not well” as well. Editors who communicate with their writer are one thing, yet copy editors who work in the wee dark hours of the night when writers are either home sleeping or perhaps home writing in those same wee dark hours of the night are another. There is no communication or back and forth–copy editors works fast, overnight, and their results appear in the next day’s headlines before the writer knows what happened!
Sometimes a smaller newspaper has an editor that wears all hats: General Editor, Managing Editor, Proofreader, and Copy Editor. I once had an editor who did not bother to read an article I wrote before publishing the paper when I had two typos in the title when I sent a rough draft of an article I wrote to the final proof board instead of the final draft and it was a terrible mess. She then told me she had not looked at the article before sending it to press because she never had to ever edit or do any changes to my work before. It seemed somehow like the reverse of crying wolf.
I agree also with Campbell about rhythm–rhythm sets the tone like a title and introduction do and the other point Stephen makes here. Depth Psychologist Susan Rowland wrote extensively on the use of language of C. J. Jung in this way. I will look for the articles she has written on this topic. Some of it appears on the Academia.edu website and can be found if you browse her work.
I love the image of the gander on Campbell’s desk. I was at the OPUS archives before (which was a wondrous expedition!) but do not remember at that time seeing the gander symbol on his desk. I like that the definitions given for gander are both a (male) goose and also “to take a gander,” a look, at something. Campbell does seem to be one of those very observant people, of both the outer and the inner meanings of perception and symbols. Much of what he relays to us are how the symbols in myth (and customs and rituals as part of that) are both to and from the unconscious to the conscious and back again, like the idea of the eternal dance encircling the cosmos. I am reminded also of Campbell’s book, The Flight of the Wild Gander.
I want to also quickly mention that I love watching and hearing the geese fly back and forth between north and south and back again every year and love when they stick around a while in the summer months. I have a ceramic goose figurine that is sort of a Mother Goose figure that was once my grandmother’s.
I agree that the writing itself is very important down to the rhythm of the words themselves (even in journalism and not just in artistic or creative essay or creative works, as journalism too has its rhythm). This was a refreshing topic for me and made me think about how context and content are related as writing teachers tell their writing students.
Thank you for bearing with me here in my response which was also to bear with me in my search for a response,