Brendan’s Way: the Title

I’ve always had a bit of trouble titling my work. Once in a while, the title is the inspiration for the work: “Unrest Among the Smart Cows” sprung to mind and I wrote a story to fit it. The Punk Book was an inside joke with my longtime bandmate Jonathan.

But usually I agonize over titles, and I often don’t think they’re very good, even after they’re published. But Brendan’s Way surprised me.

The surprise isn’t that the title worked, or that it’s a good one (I think it is). It’s that from the moment I conceived of the novel, I’ve known that was the title; and no one has ever second-guessed me on it. The title fits. It works. It sounds good. It’s right.

But I know next to nothing about titles. So where did it come from?

It started with the inspiration for the book: the song “Saint Brendan’s Way” by the Lowest of the Low. (How many times am I going to link to that song? Many many times. It’s an awesome song.) The song is about Irish immigrants coming to Canada in the 19th century, and how they were following the legendary path of St. Brendan, the famous Irish monk who sailed his leather-bottomed boat across the sea.

In my book, Brendan is an Irish farmer in the late 23rd century, who lucks into a trip to the newly colonized world of Ellis. Just as Irish immigrants filled leaky boats across the Atlantic, Brendan is taking a dangerous trip across space. So the pattern repeats again: following his Irish forebears, he’s taking a trip across a vast and perilous nothingness, purely based on the hope for a better life in a new world.

But it still amazes me that my little ship of a book has sailed through the writing and publishing process without a single question – or even comment – about the title. And it gives me a bit of hope: maybe this book will make it, too.

Or in the words of Ron Hawkins and the Lowest of the Low:

Our fortunes are fleeting
And our passage in steer
And God knows if I’ll perish
In my twenty-fifth year

In this ship full of scurvy
With my bride at my hand
And I shall kiss her tenderly
In this great new found land

And it’s hope that we follow today
If we dare follow St. Brendan’s Way

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