Curiosities of Literature: A Feast for Book Lovers


When did cigarettes start making an appearance in English literature? Which author's heart was purportedly eaten by a cat? One of our best-known and best-loved literary critics turns his attention to the more bizarre areas of literature in this miscellany of fact and trivia. Which author had the heaviest brain? What was the original title of 1984? Who made the first bouillon soup? What do 12 percent of all winners of the Booker Prize have in common? What didn't happen on Thomas Carlyle's famous wedding night? ...
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When did cigarettes start making an appearance in English literature? Which author's heart was purportedly eaten by a cat? One of our best-known and best-loved literary critics turns his attention to the more bizarre areas of literature in this miscellany of fact and trivia. Which author had the heaviest brain? What was the original title of 1984? Who made the first bouillon soup? What do 12 percent of all winners of the Booker Prize have in common? What didn't happen on Thomas Carlyle's famous wedding night? And, while we're at it, who wrote the first Western, and is there any link between asthma and literary genius? Sutherland's irreverent literary masterpiece illuminates every topic imaginable from author advances to Civil War literature to Victorian sex to odd things eaten by literary characters (think Patrick Bateman's girlfriend in American Psycho). Other fascinating insights include the fact that the number one title among American Civil War soldiers was Les Miserables. This is the ideal anthology of fascinating information and trivia for all book lovers.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Author and literature professor Sutherland collects a sundry list of literary fact and trivia into a chaotic assortment of narratives. Organized under a stream-of-consciousness list of themes ("Literary Baked Meats," "Better Than Sex, Some Say," "Mammon and the Book Trade"), Sutherland has set few boundaries for himself regarding subject matter: irritable bowel syndrome, the wedding night, and Rose of Sharon's absurdly generous gift in the conclusion of The Grapes of Wrath all come into play. Though he might be self-indulgent, Sutherland delves into the minutiae with grace and good British wit, bringing humor and appeal to even the most (seemingly) dull subjects. Average readers don't need to worry about comparative illiteracy; Sutherland is so thorough that prior knowledge isn't necessary. A lively read for anyone who wants to learn more about their favorite classics, and a lively cheat sheet for those who want to impress their friends in the lit crowd.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Sutherland (English, Univ. Coll., London) presents a collection of little-known facts and literary trivia that should appeal to fans of Jeopardy!, Trivial Pursuit, and the like. Categories include writers' gastronomic preferences, oddities of body parts and illnesses (e.g., brain size and the relationship of asthma to genius), who really wrote what, and the recent practice of "product placement" (i.e., naming actual brands of merchandise) in literary works. The section on reading preferences of U.S. presidents is of particular interest-for instance, we learn that Reagan enjoyed the techno-thrillers of Tom Clancy, while Eisenhower read westerns by Zane Grey. Although the concept of this book is appealing, it is not well suited to American readers since it contains many references to obscure British concepts, writers, and works. In addition, topical references will limit its shelf life, and occasionally convoluted sentences make sections difficult to read. The main problem is that the book is too academic for most public libraries but not scholarly enough for academics. Buy if needed.
—Denise J. Stankovics

From the Publisher
“A thoroughly engaging compendium of literary arcadia. . . . Highly recommended. (Nicholas Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness)”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616080747
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Sutherland (born 1938) is an English professor, journalist, and author of over seventeen books. Currently a Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, he specializes in Victorian fiction, 20th century literature, and the history of publishing. He lives in England.
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Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 Literary Baked Meats

Omelette Littéraire 3

Dr Johnson's Gulosity 5

Knorr and a Nice Jelly 8

Come and Get it 9

Bovril: And World Domination 12

Milk of Kindness; Grapes of Wrath 14

To Finish With, a Lorna Doone Biscuit 17

2 The Body of Literature: Heads, Lungs, Hearts, and Bowels

Head Cheese 23

Heady Stuff 24

Asthma and Genius 25

Proust and Asthma 28

James's Irritably (Frigid) Bowel Syndrome 30

Irritable Bowels (II) 32

Ill Wind 33

Ill Wind (II) 36

Hardy's Heart 39

Hardy's Heart (II) 41

Can We Clone Dickens? 44

3 Tools of the Trade

'Set it Down': But How Exactly? 49

The First Typewriter-Writer 51

Jack versus Blick 52

The Computerised Novel 55

Serving the Writer 58

4 Sex and the Victorians

First-Night Nerves 63

The Carlyles' Wedding Night 66

Dorothea's Wedding Night 67

George Eliot's Two Honeymoons 71

The Language of Flowers 72

Green Carnations (continued) 75

Love My Manuscript More Than You 76

5 Better Than Sex, Some Say

Three Castles 81

Bond's Baccy 83

Make Mine du Maurier 84

Du Maurier the Younger: Cigarettes Again 87

Du Maurier the Third: Rebecca 88

6 Some Curious Literary Records: Best, Worst, and Most

The Worst Novelist Ever 93

The Best Novel(ist) Ever 96

My Pen is Quick 98

Slow Coach 100

Hardest Working 101

The Most Arduous 104

Chalk, Pen, or Typewriter? 106

Little Writing 107

Writing Long 110

Writing Short 112

The Shortest Poem 114

The Most Productive Holiday in English Literature 116

Most Misquoted 119

7 Literary Crimewatch (and Gunplay)

Rape and the Ethical Classroom 125

In the Dock: Ma Hump 129

The First Spliff 132

Literary Assault and Battery 134

Gunplay 137

Gunplay (II) Arms and the Woman 138

Gunplay (III) Arms and the Men 138

Gunplay (IV) The Hemingway Solution 141

8 Who? Who? Who?

Who 'Wrote': Paradise Lost? 147

Who 'Wrote': The Tragic Muse? 149

Who Wrote: The Odyssey? 150

Who Wrote the First Western? 153

Who invented the Supercomputer (in Literature)? 154

Who Wrote the King James Bible? 156

9 Name Games

Why 'Brontë'? 161

Adjectivals 165

Etiquettery 167

What's in a Name? 171

What's in a Name (II)? 174

What's in a Name (III)? 177

What's in a Title? 178

10 Readers: Distinguished and Less Distinguished

Smart Writers, Dumb Readers 183

Dumb Readers (II) 186

Presidential Readers 187

Presidential Readers (II) 190

Prime-ministerial Readers 193

11 Mammon and the Book Trade

Product Placement 197

Product Placement (II) 199

There's Life in the Old Corpse Yet 201

Lies, Damn Lies, and Bestseller Lists 204

What was the Most Popular Novel in the American Civil War? 208

Books Go to War: Continued 211

Listomania 213

The Potter Effect 215

Jam, Gollys, and the S-word 217

Go Figure 220

12 Wheels

WWJD? 225

Platform 9 3/4 227

Wrong-Headedness 229

Celebrity Car Crash: Not a Literary Thing 230

13 Morbid Curiosity

What Killed Anthony Trollope? 237

Dying Well: Too Well 238

The Wallpaper Actually Did Go 240

The Werther Effect 241

The Baskerville Effect 243

Cause of Death: George Orwell 245

More Wertherisms 245

Graham Greene: Wertherian 247

Dying Well? Or Dead Drunk? 249

Hart Crane: Death by Water (and Whiskey) 250

Dying Conscientiously 252

What Was That He Said? 254

'Good Career Move, Truman' 257

Curious Connections: a Terminal Quiz

Questions 263

Answers 264

Index 275

The End of the Book 288

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