Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why the title "Getting It"?

I'll admit I like the title of Getting It, which came to me some time after I had started it but probably early on. Not everyone likes it - an eminent academic and long-time federal judge who I sent it to once (based on our knowing each other) urged me to change it as insufficiently descriptive.

At least he didn't urge me to add a colon followed by a more descriptive subtitle, like you might do with a law review article.

Not many titles are quadruple entendres, but this one is. Achieving one's goal, sexual innuendo, "this time you're really gonna get it," and grasping or understanding what's actually important. The play between the meanings also captures what one might say the novel is really "about."

I was thinking of P.G. Wodehouse when I wrote it. Wodehouse famously said that one way to write a novel was by "going right deep down into life and not caring a damn." The other way "is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether." I definitely wanted to do it Wodehouse's way - I wasn't inclined to try to write the Flaubert or Joyce version of young lawyers in D.C. in the 1980s. Try that and you'll more likely than not end up with something boring, pretentious, and above all middlebrow.

But Wodehouse was perhaps being unfair to himself. His best novels actually are about something: rejecting (in spirit, not behavior) the serious, grown-up, adult world as crazy, excessive, onerous, and boring, in order to embrace a perpetual state of early adolescence.

This is not wholly unrelated to my impetus in starting Getting It, which has something to do with the shock I initially felt upon leaving the student world for good and having to play, from then on, for keeps and real stakes in the all-too-real and adult world of offices and permanent employment.

And from this, at the risk of sounding much more serious than the novel ever is, comes the central point behind the title, which is that you can get it in one sense and yet utterly fail to get it in another sense, which is really the one that matters.

The theme is definitely there, but thank goodness it's never made explicit, as not a single character in the novel ever comes close to really getting it as they otherwise variously either get it or get it.

That aside, the goal is purely entertainment.

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