Print media news site bookseller.com is usually a focus of attention this time of year when it announces the winner of its annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. The winner is chosen by an online poll of bookseller’s readers, and while in past years the results have shown a preference for salaciousness, this year’s winner is the wholesome-sounding The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-miligram Containers of Fromage Frais.
This may sound like a bit of a yawn compared to previous winners Living With Crazy Buttocks and High Performance Stiffened Structures, but the cheese tome actually has its share of controversy. A minor furor has erupted over the fact that the book was not written by a human, but an internet and database information aggregator invented by a professor of Management Science. The inventer claims the aggregator does away with the need for authors, editors, and fact checkers. And that’s not sitting so well with authors, editors, and fact checkers. It’s already been pointed out that the very title of the book is incorrect, because a standard fromage frais container is 60 grams, not 60 milligrams. Ha ha, robot writer. Go back to the drawing board.
I’m starting to wonder, in fact, if this winner was chosen for the very fact that bookseller.com readers knew it would attract controversy, and thus a greater amount of publicity. Really, what else can explain the victory of World Outlook Cheese Blah Blah Blah over such other worthy contenders as:
- The Large Sieve and its Applications
- Strip and Knit With Style
- Baboon Metaphysics
- Soft Drink and Juice Problems Solved
Let’s not throw out actual grand, stinking oddness for the sake of a cheap headline, bookseller readers. Some commenters on the site seem to be in agreement with me, bewailing the lack of “mythic resonance” in today’s titles compared with those of the past such as The Gut Content of Six Leathery Turtles and Bombproof Your Horse. Let’s remember these titles when we send in our submissions for 2009, friends. Sometimes the promise of mythically resonant oddness is all that keeps me going.
Photo by madhavaji on Flickr