“This blog entry has no title”


Richard Nilsen

In T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, he writes, “The naming of cats is a difficult matter,/ it isn’t just one of your holiday games.old possum

“You may think at first that I’m mad as a hatter/ when I tell you a cat must have three different names.”

Of course, that book of poems went on to become the beloved and behated Broadway musical Cats, with people who should know better running around onstage dressed up in Halloween costumes as felines. The high-church Eliot probably rolled over in his grave.

But in the real world, it isn’t just cats. It’s a problem that comes up in the art world all the time: What’s the real and true name of a painting, a symphony or a poem?

When I was a working journalist, this would sometimes present a problem: Copy editors would demand the precise title of a…

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