While getting my daily blogger’s high from browsing Russian fun pages, I came across an article about Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year. I never heard about such thing, thus my first thought was, “Oh no! Another brainchild of weird Russian sense of humor. It’s funny, all right, but I’d have to translate all those made-up titles of imaginary books from Russian, should I even bother –”
Wait. Haven’t I seen at least one book title before, and in English? Let me check…
Sure enough, there is such contest. A humorous literary award is given annually to the book with the oddest and most bizarre book title.
It was established in 1978 by the Diagram Group to avoid boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and now presided over by the Bookseller.
British publishers and booksellers compete fiercely to get suggested titles on to the short list, before the final winner is voted for by the readers. The fame of the Diagram Prize has stretched beyond the book trade, with blanket coverage from national newspapers and the BBC. (For one reason or another it never reached me. Ah, well…)
The sniggeringly funny title of this post – those, who are in the know, must’ve recognized it – is actually the title of the book about this award.
My favorite titles, thus far, not in any particular order:
In his book Donald L Wilson suggests, well, exactly what the title suggests, that the untapped mental resource can be used to solve the problems of international relations, to invent new treatments for cancer, and to give yourself a great pair of melons. I hope I used the right expression where those big, well- rounded fruits are concerned, though some varieties may be considered culinary vegetables rather than fruits.
But I digressed.
My next favorite improbable title is People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It (2005 winner) by Wally Johnston, a behavioral psychologist. Reviewers say, it reads like a novel but works like a guide to discovering signs of spirit attachment, guarding against it, and shooing spirits away.
Everything I Know about Women I Learned from My Tractor by Roger Welsch. This “ultimate contribution to mankind” reveals the coveted trade secrets Roger Welsch holds dear and deserves prominent placement on the bookshelf of every self-respecting male.
Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality: Reading from the Journal of Polymorphous Perversity (1986 winner) by psychologist Glenn C. Ellenbogen has received confirmed reports of uncontrollable outbursts of laughter as the pages of the scholarly parody are sampled. It covers such penetrating subjects as New Improved Delusions, The Scale of Mental Abilities Requiring Thinking Somewhat (SMARTS), Cancer and Tobacco: A Bum Rat and others.
In 2006, 1,866 votes of the 5,500 polled via the Bookseller website went to The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, beating the bookies’ favorite How Green Were the Nazis? Second prize went to Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan: Magic Symbols in Silk, Stone, Wood and Flesh, while Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence took third place.
2007 winner was If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start with Your Legs, by the word of reviewer, “a self-help book written by a man for the benefit of women.”
The very first winner, in 1978, was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice.
11 years later, How to Shit in the Woods, an Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art took first prize.
I was looking at earnest, but couldn’t find an image of the cover of Patrick Califia’s Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual (1990 winner). I suppose, we’d have to relinquish it to our imagination.
I stumbled upon the mention of the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year quite by accident, and I’m glad I did. To start with, however, I was looking for some fun cartoons to post on my long neglected Smile page. Take a look at those I liked, maybe you’d like them too, and smile.