March 01, 2010

Diagram Prize: Cast your vote!

Afterthoughts of a Worm Hunter by David Crompton

Collectible Spoons of the Third Reich by James A Yannes

Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes by Daina Taimina

Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots by Ronald C Arkin

The Changing World of Inflammatory Bowel Disease by Ellen Scherl and Maria Dubinsky

What Kind of Bean is This Chihuahua? By Tara Jansen-Meyer

Not the reading list for a very serious Book Club, but the short list for the 2009 edition of everyone's favourite quirky literary award, the Diagram Prize for the year's oddest book title. The Diagram Prize is run by the British trade magazine The Bookseller, in the sense that they organize the voting, but it is the magazine’s diarist Horace Bent who is its guiding spirit and custodian.

Mr. Bent used to select the winner, but since about 2000 (the Diagram Prize, which began as a way of beating boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair, is over 30 years old) he only creates the short list from titles submitted by the public, who then get to vote their favourites. I haven’t seen it stated but I don’t think the change was his idea. He has been known to grumble over some of the public’s choices, mostly the “rude” titles they have a tendency to pick, such as If you want closure in your relationship, start with your legs which went on to win a few years ago.

He also scoffs at the intentionally odd. "The adage that everyone has a book in them may well be true," he is quoted as saying, "but that doesn't mean every Tom, Dick and Harry out there can bash a few words out on a keyboard and then upload it to Scribd with a humorous title like: The Historic Adventures of the Purple Waffle Iron on His Horse Made of Asparagus, and then think they have a chance at winning my prestigious award. I refuse to acknowledge such submissions."

You can see on The Bookseller website Bent's long list of the titles he felt passed muster. I was curious to see if I had read any of them. I hadn’t, but I feel I did come within a couple of degrees. Just a few weeks ago my eye was caught by a book on a shelving trolley with the odd title Tuna: a love story, and I now see its close relative Bacon: a love story on the longlist.

Okay, I didn't read it all, but I did read the start and other good bits here and there. I was expecting a jokey, David Sedaris-type book about growing up with a Tuna casserole-making Mom. Actually, although it began very funnily (perhaps, in a sort of Diagram moment, without the author even realizing it) by mentioning that the fifteenth century British printer who produced the first treatise about fishing was named Wynkyn de Worde, the book really was a love story to the fish alive and free in the ocean -- when it manages to be, which is scarily always less often, because of the enormous amounts of raw tuna being consumed, in Asia but now also in the western world, where sesame-encrusted slivers now gaze down from the Mt. Olympus of taste on those sad, unlucky melts and casseroles.

Visit the website to vote for your favourite shortlisted title.  The voting closes March 21 and the winner will be announced on March 26.

Tuna: a love story by Richard Ellis, if you're interested in knowing more about this magnificent animal, one of the most highly evolved of the fishes - maybe the most highly evolved, I can't remember now. But I do remember that it makes the longest journey of them all: across the Pacific from California to Japan, where it turns right around and heads back, all of this at 55 mph.

and a book which is not an odd title but a fascinating story, at once nostalgic and unconventional, that I'd like to recommend: Mattanza: love and death in the Sea of Sicily, Theresa Maggio's eye-witness description of the 4000 year old ritual of the Sicilian tuna slaughter (what "mattanza" means). Once a year, in Spring, when the tuna arrive in the Mediterranean to spawn, for one hour the sea turns red. There's a bit of a love story with a fisherman, but the people I've given the book to read ignore that part, just as I did. The sea is the real romance here.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30


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