Trimalchio in West Egg: Something That Happened: The Last Man in Europe: A House of Faith. I don't know who it was who persuaded F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh to change them to the rather snappier The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men, 1984 and Brideshead Revisited but I reckon those authors owed them a considerable debt of gratitude.
Certainly whoever convinced Tolstoy that despite the fact that the boy got his girl in the end, All's Well that Ends Well wasn't really a suitable title for a book that majored on bloodshed, death and disaster and ended with Moscow engulfed in flames, did a service to the innocent reader who might otherwise have embarked on it in a spirit of cheerful optimism. (Though come to think of it, Shakespeare's so-called comedy of the same name isn't exactly laugh a minute either.)
The factors that most persuade me to buy a book are:
- That it's by an author I've read and liked before.
- That a friend I trust has recommended it.
- That I've read a good review.
- That the blurb catches my interest.
However, editors and marketing departments do think the right title is crucially important.
I don't know if other authors find appropriate titles that appeal to their publishers more easily than I do, but considering that these giants of literature most certainly got it wrong I probably shouldn't sulk when what I think is a perfectly appropriate title is rejected. On this evidence, they've probably done me a favour. Probably. Well, you wouldn't expect me to agree totally, would you? I bet Tolstoy muttered into his beard that War and Peace was just a statement of the blindingly obvious.