Monday, March 31, 2008

Titles to launch a thousand chuckles

When my first book, What's That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness, was published in 1990, I thought it had a shot at the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, a British literary venue that had been founded in 1978.

It was beaten out by Pat Califia's Lesbian Sadomasochism Safety Manual.

Damn. Maybe I should have waited to publish in 1991, when no award was given -- perhaps nobody else's title could have measured up to mine.

But from the next year on Pig wouldn't have stood a chance. Here are the winners since:

1992: How to Avoid Huge Ships, by John W. Trimmer
1993: American Bottom Archaeology, by Charles J. Bareis and James W. Porter
1994: Highlights in the History of Concrete, by Cement and Concrete Association
1995: Reusing Old Graves: A Report on Popular British Attitudes, by Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw
1996: Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers, edited by Derek Willan
1997: The Joy of Sex, the Pocket Edition, by Mitchell Beazley
1998: Developments in Dairy Cow Breeding: New Opportunities to Widen the Use of Straw, by Gareth Williams
1999: Weeds in a Changing World, by the British Crop Protection Council
2000: High Performance Stiffened Structures, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers
2001: Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service, by Gerard Forlin
2002: Living with Crazy Buttocks, by Kaz Cooke
2003: The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories, by Alisa Surkis and Monica Nolan
2004: Bombproof Your Horse, by Rick Pelicano and Lauren Tjaden
2005: People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It, by Gary Leon Hill
2006: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, by Julian Montague

And the 2007 winner, just announced: If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs, by Big Boom.

According to The Guardian, "Boom's trusty treatise took something of a landslide victory, receiving a full third of the nearly 9,000 online votes cast since the short list for the Bookseller magazine-sponsored award was announced last month. In particular, it received attention for the cunning way in which its title conveys the nature of the advice to be offered so effectively that, according to the Bookseller's deputy editor Joel Rickett, 'you don't even need to read the book itself' -- a somewhat unique term of praise for a literary prize sponsor."

The Daily Telegraph wrote that Mr. Boom (presumably a pseudonym) is a former pimp. The Canadian Press added that the author calls it a "self-help book, written by a man for the benefit of women."

It's a book, Boom writes, that is "raw, honest and about you," distilling "the sweat off my back, the wrinkles in my forehead from anger and thinking all the time."

The prize: A magnum of champagne and a brief bask in the sun of notoriety.

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