BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

A perfect match ...

Sometimes the Universe just brings you what you need. I picked up a copy of Roddy Lumsden's Vitamin Q: A Temple of Trivia Lists and Curious Words via one of the $1.99 clearance sales on the site, and, frankly, wondered when or even if I'd ever get around to reading it. You see, this is a big thick book full of lists, sure, they're amusing lists, even informative lists, but it's essentially reading a reference book, which (as one can imagine) leaves something to be desired as a project. I imagine that this is both intended and ends up as “toilet reading”, as most of the material in this ranges from a half a page to five pages, perfect time-fillers for when one is otherwise occupied, as it were.

So, why did I need this right now? No, I haven't contracted dysentery or anything along those lines … but my computer is quite ill at the moment, with something which causes it to freeze up at totally random times, requiring a hard re-boot. These re-boots, while irritating (especially before I got in the habit of neurotically saving whatever I was working on!), only took from 3-5 minutes to get from swearing and pushing the power button to being back into what I'd been doing before I'd been so rudely interrupted. These little gaps in my schedule (and there were something like a hundred of them over the course of the past few days), are what were perfect for reading this book, as I was able to get in 3-4 pages of reading for every re-boot cycle!

The author of this is a very rare bird, as he claims to make a living off of being a poet. That is, in this day and age, somewhat akin to being a Sealing Wax Magnate. I see from Wikipedia, that he also teaches poetry, so there's some salary in play there that's not dependent on readings and chapbook sales. He is also a Scotsman, and a non-trivial percentage of the material in here is focused on the Scottish linguistic heritage … which, if this isn't your particular thing (mine neither), is rather tedious. A lot of the stuff here, too, hangs on knowledge of and interest in British TV and music, with much of that eliciting the predictable glassy-eyed stare from your typical Yank (myself included).

However, at least half the book is quite interesting, with some sections (more wordy than simple lists) being evidently well researched, and some pieces being what could be quite effective seeds for a stand-up routine (“Fourteen Words That Mean The Opposite Of How They Sound” most stood out on this point). However, it's hard to even get through a list of 70+ butterfly/moth names, or several dozen horse maladies! This all originates with the “Vitamin Q” website the author started “out of boredom” a decade or so back, and the 360 or so pages here appear to be a “data dump” of the materials backlogged there.

Again, had I not been having computer problems (and I'm hoping that as of tomorrow, I'll be back on a different machine!), I don't know if I'd ever have gotten around to reading Vitamin Q, and it was just perfect to distract me over those otherwise-maddening re-boot cycles. It does appear that this is out of print currently, but the Amazon new/used guys have “like new” copies for as little a one cent (plus the $3.99 shipping, of course), so it is out there if things like “Personal names which have a different meaning in old Scots” (90 of 'em), or “Forty things which people have claimed to be responsible for 'the worst smell'” pique your curiosity enough to want to obtain a copy!

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Tags: book review
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