Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 118 (6/1) -- If Ignorance Is Bliss, Why Aren't There More Happy People? edited by Lloyd and Mitchinson

If Ignorance Is Bliss is an apparently well-researched (there are no actual notes, but many references about certain quotes or names being difficult to run to ground) book of quotes, edited by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. The subtitle, which explains the point better than the long title, is "Smart Quotes for Dumb Times." The title itself is a slight misquotation of Victor Cousins's "If ignorance is bliss, there should be more happy people," from p.155.

Lloyd and Mitchinson are both producers of the popular British quiz show QI, and they've written two books of random facts together, probably based on work for that show. (Lloyd is somewhat better-known than Mitchinson, with a long list of credits stretching back to Blackadder and Not the Nine O'Clock News; he also co-wrote The Meaning of Liff -- a book of joke "definitions" of geographical place names -- with Douglas Adams.) I wouldn't be at all surprised if this book also grew out of their work on QI, or perhaps as work avoidance in the writing room for QI.

Quote books are remarkably resistant to review, particularly popular ones like this: once you say that it's about four hundred pages long, arranged topically, has rough edges, and was published last August by Harmony Books at $21.99, there's very little else to add, unless you start re-quoting some of your favorites.

So let me re-quote some of my favorites...
"There is no such thing as an ugly woman. However, there is such a thing as not enough vodka."
- Russian proverb

"There are two rules for success: 1) Never tell everything you know."
- Roger H. Lincoln

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
- Philip K. Dick

"Sculpture is the stuff you trip over when you are backing up trying to look at a painting."
- Jules Olitski

"It's simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it."
- Sam Levenson

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is."
- Jan L.A. Van De Snepscheut

"No travel writer I have ever known has written about the importance of parking."
- J.G. Ballard
If Ignorance Is Bliss is a fun book to poke through at odd moments; like most books of quotes, it's not designed to be read straight through, but to be dipped into now and then. (And so borrowing it from the library, as I did, may lead to overdue fines, as it did with me.) For people who like quote books -- and I'm definitely one of them -- this is a good one; it's got many that I hadn't seen before, and it was clearly put together with care, unlike some competitors I could name.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Jacob Golden - 'Merican
via FoxyTunes

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