If the answer is yes, this book is for you. Packed with chatty asides, humorous anecdotes and endless trivia, Sutherland's compendium is the perfect companion to fill in contemplative moments on sandy shores during the long summer.
The book is broken down into 13 sections and concludes with a quick literary quiz. The tone of each is set with a dark, hyperbolic sketch by award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson.
The information contained in each segment is thoroughly random and eclectic, and holds together through nothing more than some tenuous similarity. Rather than detract from the work though, this, like the pleasure derived when sifting through a disorganised second-hand bookstore, adds to the experience. The bric-a-brac of the first section is tied together with gastronomy.
Titled "Literary Baked Meats", it embarks not only on a dissection of the eating habits of some of the greatest writers, but also points out the first three-course meal in literature, in science fiction and so on - if there is a connection between writing and the consumption of farm animals, Sutherland has found and exploited it. Other chapters find themselves discussing all manner of topics from Victorian sex and typewriters, to body parts and gunplay. Put simply, this book is a Woman's Day for bibliophiles.
The information is, perhaps, just as pointless as that found between the covers of the magazine but, just as women's mags answer nagging queries about celebrity romance, Curiosities of Literature is an indispensible source for the book junkie.
While it may be unashamedly swirling with needless information, it is, nevertheless, superbly prepared and written, and thoughtfully pieced together. Curiosities of Literature is as informative as it is indulgent. Sutherland's intimate prose leads the reader on an entertaining odyssey through the oddities of writing, writers, and their lives.
For book lovers it will fill irritating holes in their days and evenings nicely. For others it will stimulate dinner-table conversation and debate.
* Steve Scott is an Auckland reviewer and this review first appeared in Canvas magazine in last Saturday's New Zealand Herald. It is published here with their permission.