… the novel’s delicate tone, which is poised between whimsy and heartbreak.

A. O. Scott, reviewing The Mysteries of Pittsburgh in the NY Times today. Headline: “A Stockbroker in Training Has Turns in His Journey.” Headlines in the paper’s Arts and Leisure section are often entertainingly gnomic (another: “At the Way Station of Life, Departing to Anywhere”). But they can also be overambitious and top-heavy: “Satyajit Ray’s World of Restless Watchfulness and Nuance.” Expanded into a paragraph, the thoughts in question might make sense. As a headline, they make you imagine a tense scene in the Ray living room: “Will you stop looking at me? And don’t fidget! And what do you mean, what do I mean by ‘fidget’?”

I suppose the problem isn’t the headline writers, it’s the situation. The A&L has to cover a lot of movies and shows. Page after page of straightforward headlines (“Chabon’s Mysteries Poorly Adapted,” “Satyajit Ray Retrospective Displays Director’s Eye for Behavior, Emotion”) would quickly become excruciating. Trying to be jokey and clever in the British style would result in the same puns being recycled over and over (the Ray headline would involve Apu and “Come Again”). The only solution is not to read the NY Times unless you’re at your mother’s place and want to put off writing.

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