The Village Idiot

The Girl Who Sold Books

Ever since the book “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels became such monster hits, it seems every other book on the best-seller list has the world “girl” in the title.

”Gone Girl,” “The Girl on the Train,” “Gadget Girl,” “The Windup Girl,” and of course, Amy Schumer’s “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.” According to one of the book trade magazines, 364 books with the word “girl” in the title have come out in the last eight years, with 80 this year alone. And yet in 2009, only one book appeared with “girl” in the title.

Obviously if you want to sell a book, it helps to have the word “girl” in it. But it’s not a requirement. Instead, you can always use “wife” or “daughter.”

There’s another slew of books with one of those in the title: “The Aviator’s Wife,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “The Bonesetter’s Daughter,” to name just a few of the 188 titles I found with a quick search. By contrast, I can’t remember ever seeing a book with the word “husband” in the title. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but face it -- who would buy a book called “The Husband With the Hairy Back”? That just screams, “Nothing to see here, move along.”

Well, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. We can certainly expect many more books with “girl” to come. How long before we see these through the bookstore window? “The Girl on the Crosstown Bus,” “The Girl With the Giant Schlep Bag,” “The Girl Who Really Was a Little Girl, and Not a Grown Woman Being Called a Girl Just to Sell a Book.” It seems a truism that you can get away with calling a woman a girl a lot longer than you can call a man a boy.

I’m working on a book right now that features an 87-year-old woman. My publisher, Hookline and Sinker, would be in seventh heaven if I could only work the word “girl” into the title.

”Can’t you give her a tattoo?” my editor asked the other day. “Or a piercing?”

”I think that’s been done,” I said.

”Of course, it’s been done,” he snapped. “It’s been done because it works. If I was publishing the Hardy Boys right now, they’d be girls. Or wives or daughters.”

“I think most girls are daughters.”

“We’re not talking about daughters, idiot. We’re talking about money. Would you work with me for once in your life? The people have spoken, and they want to read about girls -- young women just like themselves, but more exciting. Girls who do things; girls who have adventures. Girls who don’t get along with their parents, girls whose husbands and boyfriends don’t ‘get’ them, girls who are effortlessly pretty. Girls who never have to diet or exercise or do laundry, but who are still thin and gorgeous. Girls who go out and drink Kir royals and meet exciting people who know other exciting people.”

“OK, so let’s call it ‘The 87-Year-Old Girl.’”

“I like it!”

“I was kidding. I’d rather give her a tattoo.”

There goes my dream of winning the Nobel Prize for Trash Literature. My hopes have been cruelly dashed once again. If only the world were more like my high school, at least I could maybe get the Nobel Prize for Participation.

But I doubt that Hookline is about to wait for me, or anyone else, to jump on the “girl” bandwagon. I’ve heard they just have to retitle old classics and watch them fly off the shelves. “Romeo and Juliet” is now “The Girl on a Really Bad Date.” Dracula will become “The Girl Who Forgot to Close the Window.” “Gone With the Wind” will be “The Girl Who Used People.” And “The Wizard of Oz” can become “That Other Gone Girl.”

(Contact Jim Mullen at mullen.jim@gmail.com.)

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