KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
Between The Test of Brian O’Driscoll and the tribulations of Roy Keane, I can’t help thinking that the current crop of celebrity autobiographies have missed a trick on the title front. The Second Half might seem like sensible name for a former footballer’s second volume of memoirs, but this is Roy Keane, for God’s sake! The man’s life has been a catalogue of drama, tension and controversy: surely, he could have mined a little deeper to come up with a truly memorable book title. Would Whose Phone is That? have been too much to hope for?
I understand that the only reason most famous people have for writing their memoirs is to make more money, but honestly, you’d think they would put their back into coming up with something decent to put on the front. Gerry Ryan and I, back in the day, used to like to come up with titles for books we’d never write; I recall him once saying that if he ever wrote his autobiography, he would call it Big Town Ego, Small Town Life. I suggested he should call it Dirtbird. In the end, when he did eventually write a book, he disappointed us both by calling it Will The Real Gerry Ryan Please Stand Up (since I barely recognised my friend in said book, the answer, apparently, was no). We had Eamon Dunphy on the radio with us one time and he told us that if he ever wrote his memoirs, he’d call it Wrong About Everything. In the end, he called his book The Rocky Road, which isn’t bad, but isn’t nearly as good as Wrong About Everything.
A (non-celebrity) friend of mine considered writing a two volume memoir, with the first half called Hail, Hail, The Pint Pot, and the second, The Pint Pot and Its Role In My Downfall. Together, these fascinating volumes were to be called Pint Pots… And Then Some! Frankly, I’d reach for that in a bookshop ahead of a volume called The Test any day (since everyone else has made the rather obvious joke about it being a test of endurance to get through it, I’ll resist; though in his defence, my own deeply unpleasant encounter with BOD did reveal him to be decidedly testy).
Deciding to call his
autobiography Camp David was a stroke of genius, as too was Alan Titchmarsh’s title, Trowel And Error
A clever title doesn’t just sell a book, it makes readers feel more positively disposed towards their subject. Many years ago, I saw somebody on holidays reading David Niven’s autobiography, which was called The Moon’s A Balloon, a line from an E. E. Cummings poem. I’d never given Niven a second thought prior to that, but I liked him ever afterwards. I can take or leave David Walliams, but calling his autobiography Camp David was a stroke of genius. I am often baffled by how many women my age confess to fancying Alan Titchmarsh, but after learning that he called his memoir Trowel And Error, I’d almost give him one myself. Jo Brand’s two volumes of memoir, I Can’t Stand Up For Sitting Down and Look Back In Hunger deserve a round of applause and Paul O’Grady’s wonderful At My Mother’s Knee And Other Low Joints is just perfect. I approve of Panti’s Woman In The Making, though I like the title of the forthcoming film, High Queen Of Ireland, better. And I actually don’t care what Sinéad O’Connor calls hers – I’ll be first in the queue to buy it regardless.
My own memoir of early parenthood, lest it still be possible to buy it somewhere, was called Misadventures in Motherhood, a title plucked from the Exactly What It Says In The Tin shelf. As to any broader autobiography, the excellent news for anyone who’s ever met me is that there won’t be one. Frankly, I spend a huge amount of time trying to forget some of the ridiculous shenanigans I’ve got up to; the last thing any of us needs is my recording them for posterity. And since I’ve always believed that people writing autobiography owe it to their readers to at least tell the truth (a notion that several of our current celebrity authors clearly don’t hold with), a selective account just wouldn’t cut it (and would, in any event, be a tedious read). But in the alternative universe, in which I lead the kind of charming, witty and blameless life that makes for zinging autobiography, I think I would call it Inappropriate Adult. Now, if you ever see that in a bookshop, then for everyone’s sake, reader, pass by.