Yesterday I woke up thinking about a movie I saw in Perth several years ago. A documentary about a family who moves to the Canadian wilderness, the story is a beautiful portrayal of isolation, hardship, and unconditional love. But what was it called? As my tea brewed, I pulled my robe tighter and took a swig from my water bottle. I closed my eyes and envisioned the poster for the movie. A mother pushing her kids through the snow in a wooden sled. But what on earth was the title?
On the walk to my office, I listened to “Against All Odds.” I wish I could just make you turn around. Turn around and see me cry. This was not the state I needed to be in. I put my phone away and started thinking about that movie again. Was it called All The Love? Our World? No. There’s a bear, and someone gets sick. Was bear in the title?
Titles are either good, bad, or forgettable. I find it hard to assign titles to my writing. I understand artists who simply use Untitled #14 or whatever. How can we expect to sum up a piece of writing in a few words? Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius might be the best title of all time. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle isn’t bad either. Some titles are like bubbles – pretty for a moment, until they’re gone. Yesterday Never Came, for example, or Love on The Mind (I made these up).
For my debut novel coming out in March, I had a long list of titles. For a while it was called You Belong To Everyone, and then it was simply the name of the narrator, Edie Richter. I toyed with Species Checklist but couldn’t say it without spitting on myself. I liked Lost Satellite Reception but it didn’t have much to do with the story. I think I just liked the word satellite. I scrolled through lyrics to Sufjan Stevens songs, because he makes an appearance in one chapter. My editor also had a list of possible titles, but I didn’t love them. Finally, the name came to me. It was simple, paid tribute to the matter-of-fact protagonist, while expressing the theme of the book. Edie Richter is Not Alone. My editor approved, and within days I was reviewing potential covers.
Walking home from my office yesterday, I found myself behind three meandering young men discussing their favorite Thai restaurants. They took up the width of the sidewalk, so I slowed down, relishing the eavesdropping opportunity (something I miss during this pandemic). One of them noticed me however and pulled his friends towards the curb. “Let’s let this lady pass,” he said. I responded jokingly, “I’ve got big plans tonight. So many places to go.” The tall one with the bushy beard and black mask laughed and said, “Good point. I guess we have all the time in the world.”
As I passed them, I grinned under my blue Golden Gate Bridge mask. That was it. That was the name of the Canadian wilderness movie. All The Time in The World. It’s good. You should see it.