And the winner is… Living with Crazy Buttocks (2002)

I don’t read the winners of the National Book Award, the Booker or the Giller Prize or any other major literary prize.

But I do read the winning titles of the Diagram Prize, which is bestowed on the book with the silliest title. I’m almost certain that the titles are better than the books themselves. Furthermore, the pleasure or gratification is instantaneous. Why waste time reading the book?

The 2013 winner is Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, by Reginald Bakeley.  To my disappointment and surprise, it beat God’s Doodle: the Life and Times of the Penis, by Tom Hickman.  It lost by this much.

In 1978, to fend off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair, some book distributors (Diagram Group) thought it might be a “passe-temps” to offer a prize for the most bizarre book title. That year the prize went to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. I was blissfully unaware that some mice actually sported vestments.

Some of my favorite winners are Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), Cooking with Poo (2011), and what might be considered a companion volume, How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (1989). Worldcat shows, that somehow, 173 libraries acquired the 1989 edition, while 253 opted for the 1994 reprint.  Cracks in the approval plans?

Only 3 libraries dared purchase Cooking with Poo -all of them Australian. If scatological titles don’t sit well with you, perhaps The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (2006) or Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service (2001) might pique your interest. The last named should be a futuristic detective novel, but it isn’t.

Fresh out of Iibrary school, I considered purchasing The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution (1979) if only to prominently display the book cover as I rode the subway, but I was finishing Sophie’s Choice (Styron) and promised myself Shibumi (Trevanian) next.

I eagerly anticipate the list of contenders for the 2014 Prize; be still my beating heart.

Oooh that smell…

If you’ve walked by the McLennan Library Building on McTavish Street over the past few weeks, then you’ve likely been overcome by a distinctly foul odour. The first time you smelled it, maybe you figured some guy vomited in front of Service Point on the way back from Peel Pub the previous night. But as the days passed with no relief, you began wondering how such a truly fetid smell could linger in the open air for weeks on end.

So what’s the source? It’s actually Ginkgo biloba.

The row of trees lining the western side of the building are ginkgos. These fascinating trees have been called “living fossils,” as they are by far the longest surviving species of tree on earth. Native to China, they have thrived for over 200 million years. Ginkgos are particularly resilient. In fact, a group of them survived the atomic bomb that exploded on Hiroshima, and are still alive today.

The odour, however, comes from the grape-sized ginkgo seeds. As they fall to the ground each autumn, crack open and get stomped on, nasty stink juice is released. Ginkgo trees come in male and female varieties, the latter of which produce the noxious seeds.

smashed ginkgo seeds

You smelling what I’m stepping in?

Unfortunately, McLennan’s larger ginkgos are all females and produce an abundance of seeds each year. Because of the smell, many municipalities will only plant male ginkgos on public land, and even chop down female trees (sexist much?).

But don’t worry, our smelly ginkgos are here to stay. Then again, judging by the looks of these branches, we’re in for plenty more stink bombs in the coming days.

Ginkgo seeds on tree

Bombs away!