Good Reading : August 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING AUGUST 2015 10 BOOK TRIVIA QUIRKY LIBRARY QUESTIONS Librarians, especially in the pre-internet days, have been looked upon as a mixture of mind reader, therapist and all-round wisdom repositories. Before we could google any question, people would approach librarians with all kinds of questions, some of which were very odd indeed. The New York Public Library has a phone enquiry service that has helped many people answer burning questions. The questioner calls the library, and a librarian faithfully writes out the request and then later attempts to follow up with an answer. The library has been posting some of these enquiries on their Twitter account in recent times under the hashtag #letmelibrarianthatforyou. Here are some of the enquiries (most of which date from the 1940s to the 1960s): • Why do 18th-century paintings have so many squirrels in them, and how did they tame them so they wouldn’t bite the painter? • Please explain to me the poem ‘Crossing the Bar’ by Browning. • Please give me the name of a book that dramatises bedbugs. FOREIGN BOOKS TO THE FORE Apaltry 3% of books published in the UK are translations from foreign languages. That means 97% of what the British public reads was originally written in English.Yet people in the non-English-speaking world have plenty to say. Literature Across Frontiers director Alexandra Büchler has said that this is ‘an embarrassingly low figure’. And wr iter and academic Mar ina Warner, who has just chaired a panel of judges that selected László Krasznahorkai as winner of the £60,000 Man Booker International prize, pointed out that all 10 writers on the shortlist for the prize were translated into Ger man, French and Italian far more speedily than they were into English. FASCINATING BOOK FACTS • Sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov is the only writer to have had a book published in each one of the 10 Dewey library categories. • In order to develop a sense of closeness with the book she is working on, Joan Didion has said that she often sleeps in the same room as the book. • James Frazer, author of The Golden Bough, had to move out of his room in Great Court, London, because the floor was about to collapse because of the weight of books stored on it. • Of the 1.2 million different books sold in America in 2004, only 2 per cent sold more than 5000 copies. • How much did Napoleon’s brain weigh? • What does it mean when you dream you’re being chased by an elephant? The library still provides the query service for those without the resources to research the answers for themselves.