Last week Margie Orford posted a link to an article about a morgue in Scotland that was soliciting bids in a competition among a list of famous crime fiction authors. The winner’s to name will be affixed to the new morgue. Whether having a morgue named after a crime author is about the highest honor we can aspire to raises a host of questions. One that is open for debate. But the Scottish morgue’s solicitation does raise an interesting question in the world of commerce in which business owners use authors’ names to brand their product.
The University of Dundee launched a campaign to raise £1 million for the new facilities at its Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification.
Hotels are another good example of author name branding. The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok has upmarket suites costing a thousand dollar a night to stay at the Noel Coward, Joseph Conrad, Gore Vidal or Somerset Maugham suite (there are other authors, too). A guest who stayed at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, left this comment: “I really loved the F. Scott Fitzgerald room, it was funky/shabby/30′s chic, and yet so clean.” And a search on Google will reveal many hotels advertising rooms named after authors.
How about having a genus of butterflies named after you? Vladimir Nabokov has one. Nabokov may be the only writer to ever have a butterfly and an asteroid named after him. Some government agencies also use authors’ names.
Take the board that runs the New Jersey Turnpike. They’ve named rest areas after Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper and Joyce Kilmer.
In Michigan, Rudyard Kipling has two postage stamp sized towns (a few hundred people each) named after him. One Rudyard, Michigan, and the other Kipling, Michigan. In England, Kipling has a lake and a small village named after him, too.
There is a stout beer after Shakespeare. I suspect there are lots of stuff that carry the bard’s name. Poets aren’t left out. See: Shipyard Longfellow Winter Ale. Playwrights are also represented in the beer and ale business. The Mighty Oak Brewery’s Oscar Wilde Mild has distinguished itself: “Oscar Wilde, A dark mild, again a winner of numerous awards including Champion Beer of East Anglia 2005, Champion Mild of Great Britain 2006, Champion Mild of East Anglia 2010, and Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 2011 at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival.”
This naming business can sometimes backfire. Take Gary Larson of The Far Side comic fame. Entomologists named a blood-sucking owl louse after him — strigiphilus garylarsoni. And I thought scientists were our friends.
Some places are less friendly to naming things after writers. For instance, it has been reported that English Canada has no places named after Canadian writers, artists or their works. Unlike the Australians which have at least Darwin, Northern Territory – Charles Darwin. Russia and the former Republics are filled with places named after poets, writers, and playwrights. The French have places named after Descartes – René Descartes and Voltaire
As the naming business has as much to do with the quest for immortality as it does from the profits of a successful brand, authors are well advised to look to outer space where there are many objects from asteroids, to stars and moons pleading for a name along with the usual scientific number. There are dozens and dozens of authors with a capital A, novelists (those with a small case ‘n’), poets, and playwrights who have their names attached to heavenly bodies. I’ll stick to some examples of novelists who are out there at night twinkling in a cloudless sky.
- 2362 Mark Twain (Mark Twain)
- 2625 Jack London (Jack London)
- 2675 Tolkien (J.R.R. Tolkien)
- 3453 Dostoevsky (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
- 4370 Dickens (Charles Dickens)
- 4474 Proust (Marcel Proust)
- 4923 Clarke (Arthur C. Clarke)
- 5020 Asimov (Isaac Asimov)
- 6223 Dahl (Roald Dahl)
- 6371 Heinlein (Robert A. Heinlein)
- 7016 Conandoyle (Arthur Conan Doyle)
- 7232 Nabokov (Vladimir Nabokov)
- 7390 Kundera (Milan Kundera)
- 7644 Cslewis (C. S. Lewis)
- 9766 Bradbury (Ray Bradbury)
- 10177 Ellison (Harlan Ellison)
- 10251 Mulisch (Harry Mulisch)
- 10733 Georgesand (George Sand)
- 10930 Jinyong (Jinyong)
- 11020 Orwell (George Orwell)
- 11379 Flaubert (Gustave Flaubert)
- 25399 Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut)
- 25924 Douglasadams (Douglas Adams)
Frankly, I’d settle for an Omelette Vincent Calvino. Of course this has already been done with the Omelette André Theuriet – the French novelist and poet André Theuriet (1833–1907) which is an omelette with truffles and asparagus named for him. Another Omelette author combination is the Omelette Arnold Bennett. Wiki describes it as “an unfolded omelette with smoked haddock” and it was created at the Savoy Hotel for the writer Arnold Bennett The Omelette Vincent Calvino lavishly stuffed with thinly sliced onions, fresh black olives and a healthy dose of Omega-3.
Let’s move along to lunch for a Salad à la Dumas – Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870), the noted French author. That leaves dinner. For a starter, say go with the Bisque of shrimps à la Melville named after American author Herman Melville (1819–1891). For the main course, I’d recommend going with the Lamb chops Victor Hugo after French author, Victor Hugo (1802–1885).
For a late night snack, I’d recommend Pizza Bangkok Noir—mushrooms, green olives, and salmon. It’s not on the menu at Queen’s Victoria Pub over on Soi 23, Sukhumvit Road, but I am working on it. Meanwhile, returning to the cosmos, there remains a great deal of space for authors’ names in the future. It’s not like we are going to run out of stars. And that might be the problem. When it becomes ordinary to attach an author’s name to an object, doesn’t it lose the magic of being special?
For special, we’d do better to limit ourselves to the space junk in the form of dead satellites and assorted man made junk that remains unnamed. It might inspire a new literary award system given annually to the author whose work mostly closely recreates the feeling of dangerous pieces of space junk crashing through the roof of your house. Come to think of it, those objects ought to be reserved for financial high rollers: the top 400 in America. After those 400 names are exhausted move onto the Wall Street Banksters and their pet politicians. There’s a lot of junk circling the planet. The chance to name it shouldn’t be wasted. The Occupy Wall Street crowd ought to draw up a list of candidates whose name will be attached to a particular piece of space junk. We could all vote online. Now that would be democracy in action.