The name of my novel was always to be _Milk and Honey_. The phrase, like much of the book itself, is Biblical in origin referring to the Promised Land. I like the earthiness of the phrase. I like the contrast of impermanence (milk) and permanence (honey (honey never ‘goes bad’)). I like that both of these products are made by animals, as animal life figures prominently in my book. BUT, much to my chagrin, the title has recently been taken by Rupi Kaur, so I have chosen to abandon it.
I have elected, instead, to call the book _Bound in Blood and Skin_. I am happy with the title, which I borrow from Leonard Cohen’s “Last Year’s Man.” Here it is, in context of the verse:
Some women wait for Jesus, and some women wait for Cain,
so I hang upon my altar,
and hoist my axe again.
And I take the one who finds me back to where it all began,
when Jesus was the honeymoon,
and Cain was just the man.
And we read from pleasant Bibles that are bound in blood and skin,
but the wilderness is gathering
all its children back again.
This revised title works better than the previous for several reasons.
First, Cohen makes sense as a reference point for this book. Cohen made a career of contrasting sacred and profane. He even did so when I was fortunate enough to see him in concert. This book draws the same comparison throughout: its hero, Luc, is a profane incarnation of Christ, and Louis Riel. He reenacts the Gospel of John in a contemporary, Canadian context.
I have long been a fan of Cohen’s music, but I like his prose even better. I have read Beautiful Losers (note the wonderful contrast in that title!) every year for the past fifteen years. It makes sense that I honour him in the choice of my first book’s title.
Second, my novel is about a Butcher who works in the trade of blood and skin. Luc’s meat sculpting skills are truly miraculous, as you shall see should you choose to read it.
Third: I like that there is another word thrown into the mix of two ‘big words’: BLOOD and SKIN are ‘bound’. Taken alone, this phrase suggests some dramatic tension: we are bound in blood and skin but in the novel, our imprisonment to the flesh offers to liberate us if we embrace it.
There are many other reasons this title works better as well, but I want you to show them to me should you choose to read the book.
I hope that my decision to invoke Leonard Cohen isn’t too ostentatious. I am a mere flake of light, compared to his massive star, which continues to burn after his passing this year.