A somewhat misleading title.
01 April 2013
by Rosemary Ahern (com)
I have always been interested in epigraphs--those quotes and blurbs that writers include in the beginnings (mostly) of their books. So when I saw the title The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin, well, you can excuse me for getting a huge nerdy thrill, can't you?
But it wasn't quite what I wanted. I was looking forward to a consideration of how authors find and choose such epigraphs--I know you come across a lot of things as you read, and most writers do a lot of reading, but how do they remember the perfect quotes they eventually want to use for their books? Do they collect such quotes? Do they go looking for them AFTER they've written their books, or have them in mind before they start? Or what?
This book is still interesting, but disappointingly, mainly consists of 23 categories (such as "Life," "Love," "Rebels and Outsiders," etc.) that include the epigraphs from various books. On the first page of the "Life" chapter, for instance, is a quote from Ecclesiastes that Hemingway opened The Sun Also Rises with. And that's it. A few of the examples include a bit more explanatory material, but never quite enough to satisfy me. For example:
"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. --G.K. Chesterton, in Coraline (2002) by Neil Gaiman.
Although widely viewed as a Catholic reactionary, Chesterton is credited with inspiring Mohandas Gandhi to take up the fight for Indian independence from British rule. A column Chesterton wrote in 1909 so impressed Gandhi that he translated it into Gujarati and then proceeded to write his own book addressing the problems of colonialism and how to achieve reform through civil disobedience." (p. 16.)
Now, that is all very interesting, but it is not really what I want to know. What I want to know is, is Neil Gaiman sitting around reading G.K. Chesterton? Or did he just leaf through a quote book until he found this one? And how did he remember it to use for his book?