I've not really made much use of xlink in MODS, but IIRC, the
expectation is that it be used like so:

<title xlink:href="whatever">

Is this right?

I ask because I came across some discussion of xlink recently in which
the author (Norm Walsh) had offered a proposal to revise xlink to
*allow* this.

The current spec does not, and enforces an additional attribute
(xlink:type).  So, correct use of xlink would be something like:

<title xlink:type="simple" xlink:href="whatever">