‘Six Impossible Things’ is the title of my YA book which comes out in August, and it’s from this exchange between Alice and the White Queen in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’:
‘I’m seven and a half exactly.’
‘You needn’t say “exactually”,’ the Queen remarked: ‘I can believe it without that. Now I’ll give you something to believe. I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.’
‘I can’t believe that!’ said Alice.
‘Can’t you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes…’
Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. …’
As well as being deliciously absurd – and it stands alone and sufficient in that regard – an annotated edition will tell you that Lewis Carroll is also taking a concise swipe at the idea of religious faith.
My use of these words as a book title is entirely more literal. Protagonist Dan Cereill’s life is in a mess – he articulates his problems by sorting the mess into a more containable six impossible things.
Whereas the White Queen’s ‘impossible’ refers to that which is unbelievable, or inconceivable, Dan’s six things are, to him, simply unachievable.
But I like the loose link to ‘Through the Looking Glass’, because Dan, too, finds himself in a new world – a place where he doesn’t quite know how to behave, a place in which he has to discover – and sometimes construct – rules and solutions as he goes along.
And I love titles that contain numbers. ‘Six Impossible Things’, ‘Five Easy Pieces’, ‘Seven Little Australians’, ‘10 Things I Hate About You’, ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians’…
Is it my inner control freak? Once it’s quantified, then I can start figuring it out? Or is it just that it flips the curiosity switch so well – which seven?, what ten things?…
I also love titles that promise to tell me a secret – The Dawn Shops, Everything Beautiful, Come To Me, What I Loved, A Gate at the Stairs…
What are your favourite book titles? Do you ever read a book just based on its title?
Five Easy Pieces – screenplay by Carole Eastman, Seven Little Australian – Ethel Turner, Ten Things I Hate About You – screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith, The Hundred and One Dalmatians – Dodie Smith, The Dawn Shops – Joyce Lankester Brisley, Everything Beautiful – Simmone Howell, Come To Me – Amy Bloom, What I Loved – Siri Hustvedt, A Gate at the Stairs – Lorrie Moore