We’ve seen how important it can be to name places meaningfully and how, in a way, it’s become a lost art. Of course there’s a hidden art to naming many things of cultural interest, and there are shifts to keep in mind, such as the changing fashion in people’s names from different eras, the names of status items such as cars, even startup company names… and yes, also band names.
Some might see the new nature writing as a form of self-help with added sheep; others could simply want to lose themselves in a landscape as far from their computer screen as possible. Yet hanging over many of these books is an inescapable sense of loss.
Samuel L. Clemens (the writer’s real name) was so financially inept that, even though he married a wealthy woman and had great success with his books and articles, he found himself owing $60,000 to banks, friends and business partners at the ripe old age of 59. (That’s $1.8 million in today’s dollars.)
The great author was a sucker for get-rich-quick investments, including a typesetting machine that broke often and was slower than its competitors. So, in 1895, he rented out his mansion in Hartford, Conn., and embarked on a round-the-world tour, a combination of stand-up comedy and celebrity victory lap to make back the money. He was the first American author to circle the globe that way.
Ephron wields those occasional culinary descriptions — of Lizzie and Finn devouring brioches split and stuffed with gelato or Snow biting the innards from a fig — with a deft, stinging touch. They are a wise reminder that the hungers driving these people are a ravenous, even violent, business.