Joined-up Thinking: How to Connect Everything to Everything Else by Stevyn Colgan
|Joined-up Thinking: How to Connect Everything to Everything Else by Stevyn Colgan|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Everything is linked to everything else – and that's not trivial. The fun in this book remains trivial, but more than slight.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 249||Date: October 2008|
I am in this book. And so therefore are you. So why don't I like it quite as much as I should?
To be more honest, neither of us are in this book, although we could well be. It is a trivia collection based on attesting the feeling that everything is linked to everything and everyone else, if only you know how. Thus the chapters introduce us to item A, which is linked to item B, which relates to C, whose story is incomplete without D, and so on and lo and behold, before you know it you're back at A, having had no idea where we were going.
So here's how you're involved. Today, you read this review of this book by me. Take me – my father was, once upon a time, a theatre's carpenter. One of the company treading those boards at the time was a young Michael Caine (made-up name), who would soon go on to become a professional Londoner and practically deny ever having started out in lowly Horsham, but that's another story. Michael Caine was in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, alongside Steve Martin. Steve Martin was principally famous courtesy of the American comedy show Saturday Night Live!, which also brought Chevy Chase (made-up name) to our attention. Chevy Chase upstaged Paul Simon in the video to You Can Call Me Al. Paul Simon is in chapter 6 of this book, and so as a result we are both connected to Dr Who's car, Ian Fleming, his cousin Christopher Lee (which if I ever knew I'd long forgotten), bacteria in cheese, and Dr John Dee. I know, it made my day too.
That might not be a brilliant copy of this book, and the author is much better than I could ever be at padding his factoids about anything and everything out into paragraphs, or pages when it comes to such as the Mary Celeste, and taking the journey on with only the occasional hiccup and back-track. (And awful non sequitur – Prince Charles has been a lot of places, Mr Colgan.) I suppose part of my point is in how easy it is to replicate, to some extent, the book. I would find it very hard going to produce thirty cycles such as the ones we get here, and I dare say the others soon to appear in a sequel if this gets the success it deserves.
It strikes me as important for trivia books such as this to be able to be replicated – by the pub bore no less. I'd be one of those if only I could afford to drink out, and so I will definitely remember to tell people that the chap who invented daylight saving is related to Chris Martin of Coldplay, and that guacamole basically means testicle sauce in the pre-Mexican language the word comes from. But the style of this book, the flowing touch on so many topics, loses the punch that makes suitable trivia memorable.
Also, I would much prefer someone had taken a red pencil to several of these chapters and redrafted them. Not for waffle (they never breach ten minutes, as it's in very large print), but in so many (chapter 8 is perhaps the worst) we get back to subject A, and have a bonus page of details regarding it, before arriving where we left off. The concept (or conceit) works best when we are lumped back with our initial topic all of a sudden. Then the rush of the absurd connectivity of the world can hit us, and the idea is at its strongest.
I also would like to raise the author to task on a couple of things. Is he sure the word tanning comes from tannin, and not the other way round? There never was a book called Alice in Wonderland – that's just a public shorthand. Oh, and too much of this book involves doing things to chickens – but that might be my personal opinion.
On the whole though the book reads as all true, and authoritative. The style is one of gentle education, neither forceful lecturing nor flummery based on selling the author's personality. It's just right.
Finally, two more observations – 101 is the new 23; and John Lloyd as featured in this book (twice) is not this John Lloyd. Whatever my opening paragraph might imply.
It's a very smart style to a trivia book, and will I am sure be one of the hits of the forthcoming season – this is very much a gift-book for the novelty collector. While I can see the appeal in such circuitous looks at the truths of the world, and am thankful for the additions to my knowledge of the near-useless, I think the approach is not the best. With that proviso, the book still gets a Bookbag recommendation. We're thankful to MacMillan for sending us a review copy.
If this book appeals then you're sure to enjoy QI: The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson or for trivia with a nautical theme, try Skylarks and Scuttlebutts by Lorenz Schroter.
You can read more book reviews or buy Joined-up Thinking: How to Connect Everything to Everything Else by Stevyn Colgan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Joined-up Thinking: How to Connect Everything to Everything Else by Stevyn Colgan at Amazon.com.
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