02 September 2011

Talking Titles: 'A Kiss Before You Leave Me'

When I put together a bundle of links (one super-link from which readers, mostly those who follow me on Twitter, could link further to a page for whatever edition of A Kiss Before You Leave Me interested them), I threw in a couple of additional links, to performances by Louis Armstrong and k. d. lang, respectively, of the song 'A Kiss to Build a Dream On'--performances that I'd always drawn on in my attempts to propose a 'soundtrack' for A Kiss Before You Leave Me. I was gratified to see (these things are trackable) that many readers had linked to the bundle and from there to links to buy Kiss at various ebookstores around the world--but no one took the links to the Armstrong or lang performances. Is it because everyone knows them so well, or because they don't know them at all?

If you don't know the song, please listen to one of these performances if you can; otherwise, the lyrics are available all over the Internet. The song always was a favorite of mine, long before its lyrics provided the title for my first novel. Just kiss me before you go, they seem to be saying, and the memory of that kiss will fuel my fantasies long after you're gone. One unforgettable kiss, and separation and absence are transcended by the power of the imagination: this, at least, is the argument that pleads for the kiss: for the lyrics are, in a sense, all imperative, all rhetoric. This is true even at the level of subtext: I love you massively, love me at least a little....

One of the advertising taglines I've used for the book (whether totally seriously or not is one of those mysteries of the Internet) is 'Because every kiss is a kiss before you leave me'--meaning, as I sometimes gloss it: we live and love in the context of possible loss. What varies from person to person and love to love is how we deal with that potentiality and that eventuality. A Kiss Before You Leave Me explores different ways of holding on and letting go, of taking care of self and other--and explores some of the related rhetorics as well.

I'm told that some potential readers have given the book a miss, at least at first, because its title suggested to them that Kiss might be what is usually understood to be 'a love story', a romance novel: Love's Throbbing Sword or some such thing. One very legitimate issue, of course, is that from certain perspectives the novel itself seems like a love story, at least for a while. It seems like something of a 'guilty pleasure' before it becomes readable as a 'moral tale'. Miranda Kincaid, who at least appears to be the protagonist, thinks she's getting a second chance at love, thanks to the intervention of an unlikely matchmaker. When the reader finishes the novel, it's become clear that there are quite different things going on at the same time, and the conventional rhetoric of love (as found even in some of the epigraphs in the novel) is, I hope, rendered less seductive, more subject to... well, what I would call 'reading'....

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