Wednesday 20 May 2015

Things that we don't do now.

I've been reading some of the classic crime books re-issued by the British Library, from mostly forgotten authors. They are still very enjoyable, particularly if you want a bit of a wallow in nostalgia - the village bobby and the wily police detective, the amateur sleuth, the total absence of DNA, telephones that are few and far between - bit like trying to get a signal on a mobile now :).

Get your quotes here?
One of the things that struck me while reading was something that you rarely see these days - I can't remember when I last encountered it in a book - chapter titles. Not only did the book itself require a title but each individual part of it also got a headline and/or a line of poetry or a quotation.

From Dickens to Tolkien and CS Lewis, and one of my great inspirations - Mary Stewart, who favoured the quotation method, they all gave individual chapters a heading. (Titles of books themselves were frequently quotations too - from the Bible, from Shakespeare or from poetry - again some of Mary Stewart's are lovely and intriguing - Nine Coaches Waiting, Madam, Will You Talk? This Rough Magic.)

The naming of chapters still happens in academic writing. When prowling the archives I am always on the lookout for snappy phrases and quotes to head up the sections of my dissertation. And resisting the temptation to invent a chapter just because I have a lovely quote.

When did the naming of chapters in fiction fall out of fashion? And why? E-books might have something to do with it, but I think it was declining before they were on the scene.

Will it ever come back, I wonder?

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