Dani Shapiro
April 23, 2009

On Titles

I am in need of a title. Devotion, which I have thought all along would be the title of this book–and which, in fact, occurred to me before I even understood what the book was really about, now–unsurprisingly–no longer feels like the right title. This has happened to me before (she says, trying not to panic). When I had finished Slow Motion, I also didn’t have a title. I remember driving the hills of Vermont with Michael, stopping in bookstores, buying endless volumes of poetry and searching, searching for a title that felt right and true. It came to me in the form of a poem by Adrienne Rich.

I then excitedly called my editor and told her I had found it: Slow Motion! It was perfect for the book.
Hmmm, my editor responded. I’m not sure about the word slow.

So here I am again, reading poetry, combing my bookcases, the quotes I have gathered, the bits of wisdom, looking for just the right word, just the right phrase, and this morning–though I have not found it–I did find this fantastic little quote from Annie Dillard’s Afterward to The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, in which she writes about her confusion during the book’s publication:

“Later a reporter interviewed me over the phone. “You write so much about Eskimos in this book,” she said. “How come there are so many Eskimos?” I said that the spare arctic landscape suggested the soul’s emptying itself in readiness for the incursions of the divine. There was a pause. At last she said, “I don’t think my editor will go for that.”