Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Judging A Book By Its Cover Again.

It's time again for my favourite literary award of the year! You can keep your Pulitzers, your Bookers and your Miles Franklins: the Diagram Prize, for the year’s oddest book title, is the one I await with bated breath.

And this year the Diagram goes to … taa-raaaah! Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop!  Intriguingly subtitled: … and Other Practical Advice in Our Campaign Against the Fairy Kingdom. According to the The Bookseller magazine, the author, Reginald Bakeley, believes the prize "is a clear sign that people have had enough of goblins in their chicken coops." He added, "Our Campaign against the fairy kingdom continues." No doubt those of our members who keep chooks in the backyard, will be queueing up at Dymocks for their copy. 

At the same time they may want to buy The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry:  a very useful read for  anyone who wants to know the techniques for faking leg colour, dyeing and bleaching plumage or inserting extra feathers. The knowledge might even be applied to the reader herself, thus saving the expense of a trip to the beauty salon.

The Book Depository ran a special this week on the books that were shortlisted for the Diagram Prize, and I have to say I was tempted by some of them.

As an inveterate tea drinker who despises the teabag-in-a-mug method and always uses a teapot, I would like to read How Tea Cosies Changed the World by Loani Prior. This is a sequel to Really Wild Tea Cosies. Who knew there was a secret life of tea cosies?

Then there are a few self-help manuals that might be useful: How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You, How to Sharpen Pencils, and How to Tell If Your Boyfriend is the Antichrist. I for one feel safer knowing these are available in my local bookshop should the need arise.

Vulgarity alert! Here I have to insert a warning that some of my Gentle Readers might find the next four volumes under discussion offensive: if you are reading this aloud to a refined audience, better skip the next few paragraphs.

How to Shit in the Woods by Kathleen Meyer is a useful handbook for backpackers, hikers and campers. The blurb says it is essential and vastly entertaining reading for anyone who has ever found themselves in the wilderness without loo paper or a portable commode. What?! Who goes mountaineering without a portable commode? It's the first thing I pack.

Who Cut the Cheese? is another one for the scatologically-minded among us. To quote from the Book Depository website, "Jim Dawson sniffs out a load of historical and scientific fart tales, then offers the kind of fun facts you'll be dying to let slip at social occasions, in chapters like "Fart Facts That Aren't Just Hot Air" and "Gone with the Wind" (on famous movie farts). From fact to fiction to frivolous flatulence, this book is unquestionably a ripping good read."

How to Pee Standing Up is written by the rather disturbingly surnamed Anna Kevorkian and illustrated by Sara Schwartz. Do we really want illustrations? Those of us who have seen The Paperboy have already seen Nicole Kidman demonstrate the technique by peeing on Zac Efron after he got stung by jellyfish. Enough, already!

Still in micturating mode, we have Life of Pee, by Sally Magnusson. The blurb says: "Alchemists sought gold in it. David Bowie refrigerated it to ward off evil. In the trenches of Ypres soldiers used it as a gas mask, whereas modern-day terrorists add it to home-made explosives. All the Fullers, Tuckers and Walkers in the phonebook owe their names to it, and in 1969 four bags full of it were left on the surface of the moon." It actually sounds quite interesting and I might get the library to buy it!

Across Europe by Kangaroo is the story of an American family's odyssey - I suppose the title just means they called their hired van "Kangaroo", but I prefer to think of them bounding along the autobahns a-kangarooback, clinging on for dear life, with their luggage stuffed into the pouch. (Including a portable commode, just in case.)

When I hear the words "duct tape", I find that white vans, boxcutters and serial killers spring to mind. In every gory thriller and TV crime show, the miscreants rely heavily on duct tape and they always have a white van. Here we have a craft project book called Ductigami, by  Joe Wilson. Apparently you can make all sorts of useful items, from mobile phone holders to shower curtains, using only a roll of duct tape and a box cutter. All you need now is a white van and you can go into the kidnapping business. 

Flattened Fauna  is Roger M Knutsen's field guide to roadkill … very helpful for those of us who prefer to observe wildlife en passant, as it were. I imagine this book is to roadkill what Identifying the Birds of Australia is to ornithology.

Crafting with Cat Hair and Tea Bag Folding are two books no handicraft hobbyist should be without, and for the keen motorist, The Driver's Guide to Hitting Pedestrians will be the ideal Christmas gift.

For animal lovers, there are two companion volumes by Patty Brown: Is Your Cat Gay? and Is your Dog Gay? Among the "tell-tail" habits of the gay dog are: accepting doggy-bags only from five-star restaurants and obsessive grooming. It all seems rather intrusive. Where's the dog's right to privacy? I shouldn't think you really need to know if your dog is gay. Unless, of course, you fear that your dog is turning into a real bitch.

Finally, two very useful little books, consisting of postcard-size pictures of dear cuddly baby animals, each with a message. If you have to break bad news or answer awkward questions, let a ducky or kitty do it for you - that might soften the blow. Simply cut out the appropriate page and hand it over or better still, post it. The books are respectively titled Grandma's Dead: breaking Bad News with Baby Animals, and Why Is Daddy in a Dress?: asking Awkward Questions with Baby Animals. Very handy if you have to tell a child there is no Santa Claus or inform your married boyfriend that he is the father.

I feel the Diagram Prize Jury has done very well by us this year, and I am looking forward to next year's crop of The Oddest Titles!