austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

With the wheels a-singing ``Westward Ho''

One might suspect that I have a wee bit of a problem in keeping myself from buying every book that looks even slightly interesting. And maybe also that I find nearly every book at least slightly interesting. Well, I do. I like having a widening circle of interests and hobbies and I love coming across some intersection of topics that I hadn't thought about before. So I was wandering amidst the Book Garden, which recently reconfigured some of its shelves so that there's a specific Astronomy/Space section, not to mention a section devoted just to Old West books. I'm not so interested in the Old West --- bear in mind I've never lived in North America west of 81 degrees west longitude --- but it doesn't take much of a twist to get my eye.

So when I saw a hardcover titled Badminton of the West I thought, ``How can this possibly be a book?'' and therefore, ``I've got to see the book made of that subject.'' Well, wouldn't you want to know how that could possibly be more than a short essay?

Unfortunately it turns out I'd read the title wrong, and it was really Badmen of the West. Hardly worth raising an eyebrow for.

I also ran across, in the rather heftier History section, a book titled Famous Americans You Never Knew Existed, by Bruce Felton and Mark Fowler, which promises to be a compendium of curious people with a handful of quirky instances. But my confidence in the book was shattered by going into David Rice Atchison, The Real 12th President Of The United States. I could forgive a book cover for making that claim --- its need, of course, is to draw interest from the reader and serve as a trap to enrage the pedantic --- but the entry itself would need to explain why you could make the claim that he was president for a day but you really have to hold your fingers crossed to insist on it. The actual entry doesn't discuss those reasons, and even claims Atchison made some whimsical cabinet appointments, an assertion I haven't seen elsewhere.

So, with the book's reliability fatally compromised (a lack of references and no index, and this for a book with persons listed out of alphabetical order, too) it went back to the shelf to I imagine someday allow a future twelve-year-old know-it-all to learn that just because a book claims to be revealing secret trivia doesn't mean that trivia actually has anything to do with reality.

Trivia: The first broadcast of what became the Columbia Broadcasting System, on 18 September 1927, was a symphony orchestra concert. Source: On The Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, John Dunning. (Oh, and by the by the 25th, Columbia Phonographic --- which had rescued the original plans for what had been the United Independent Broadcasting company --- sold the network to William S Paley. Apparently the adverising market in 1927 for radio symphony orchestras was not so robust as might havebeen hoped.)

Currently Reading: Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe, Thomas Cahill.


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