A cry echoes from the bowels of The Bookseller Towers—undoubtedly from the “special room” in the basement where writers who miss deadlines are dragged, often never to be heard from again. Still, the cry rouses me from a slumber. It’s an ungodly early 11 a.m. ‘Tis the season of penny-pinching, eschewing drink, doing burpees with Joe Wicks and, err, filing your taxes. A grim month, January, good riddance to you.
I have some advice on the taxes front. Here’s what I do. It is called the Google Method. Pull a decent claret from the cellar, grab the old SA103F, then summon the chancellor of the exchequer in and say: “Look here, Gideon, this is what I’m going to pay this year”—write an obscenely small amount on the form—”if you don’t like that, I might have to tell the world what you really got up to at The Bullingdon.”
Currently, I am accused of “siphoning” a wage from this Organ, contributing a “paltry” (verbatim quotes from the spreadsheet-overseer, would you believe) three weekly columns to the rag during 2015. In a rapid riposte belying my advancing years, I reply: “Old chum, in case you hadn’t noticed it’s quality over quantity within these walls . . . it’s the opposite of publishing, don’t you see?”
So trilby firmly affixed to my bonce, I return, dear reader. I must acknowledge the swathes of support dispatched to my desk in my absence, correspondence from my army of fans, pleading for words expelled from my pen to return to these pages. Mother, Mrs Bent, I thank you.
It seems one has some catching up to do. Luckily my sprightly young colleague Mr Thomas Tivnan packaged the best of the past 12 months into four handy Review of the Year features; it’s almost as if he knew that nobody pays any attention to the blasted pamphlet for the rest of the year. Well, no longer: for the publishing event of the year is upon us.
That’s right, charges: the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year 2015, run by The Bookseller and administered by yours truly, is open for submissions. Pedants among you may notice that technically the gong is open for submissions all year round, to which I say, one is rather compelled to bash the gong when, a mere month shy of having to compile a shortlist, the submissions can be counted by a “Simpsons” character on one hand. Those four suggestions, in case you were wondering, are as follows: Transvestite Vampire Biker Nuns from Outer Space: A Consideration of Cult Film (MKH), pigeoned in by John Dale; English Sausages (Prospect Books), dumped on my desk by former colleague Anna James; Reading the Liver: Papyrological Texts on Ancient Greek Extispicy (Mohr Siebeck), tweeted to oneself by the fine folks over at Pusey House Library; and Renniks Australian Pre-Decimal & Decimal Coin Errors, entered by Lara Philips.
A number of thoughts concerning these submissions, chiefly: not a scatological nor saucy tome among them. This, in the year of the return of E L James and Grey, which I am assured is both saucy and a valuable contribution to the canon of scatological literature. More power to you, publishing proles. Here’s to a return to the good old years, those of Unsolved Problems of Modern Theory of Lengthwise Rolling. Heady days.
Anyway, I digress.
Yonder to the titillating tees-and-cees. The shortlist will be unveiled on 26th February, thus making the 38th Diagram Prize a “Leap” Diagram; and the winner revealed in these pages on 18th March. Broadcast your finest oddly-titled suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by tweeting @HoraceBent using the hashtag #DiagramPrize. Self-published titles are eligible, but as per last year’s winner, Strangers Have the Best Candy, titles must be unwittingly odd, not deliberately so.
May the odds be with you.