Sutherland’s books invariably stimulate bibliophiles to closer and deeper reading. I completed his Curiosities of Literature recently. Following are a few of the said curiosities:
- Balzac would drink up to forty cups of coffee a day (130).
- The shortest novel to win the Pulitzer Prize? Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (113).
- The most difficult reading? The list includes Robert Browning’s Sordello, Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, and Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (103).
- The paralyzed French writer, Jean-Dominique Bauby, “dictated his post-stroke memoir, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), with an alphabetic code, involving 200,000 blinks of his left eyelid, the only functioning part of his body” (106).
- Earlier and mercifully abolished titles of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby were Trimalchio in West Egg and The High-Bouncing Lover. And Orwell’s earlier title for Nineteen Eighty-Four was The Last Man in Europe (178).
For the remnant of bibliophiles scattered hither and yon, read on.
The oft-quoted maxim from Francis Bacon still holds: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.”