Title: The Odditorium
Author: David Bramwell and Jo Keeling
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Published: 11th October, 2016
Synopsis: THE ODDITORIUM is a playful re-telling of history, told not through the lens of its victors, but through the fascinating stories of a wealth of individuals who, while lesser-known, are no less remarkable.
Throughout its pages you’ll learn about the antics and adventures of tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors. While their stories range from heroic failures to great hoaxes, one thing unites them – they all carved their own path through life. Each protagonist exemplifies the human spirit through their dogged determination, willingness to take risks, their unflinching obsession and, often, a good dollop of eccentricity.
Learn about Reginald Bray (1879-1939), a Victorian accountant who sent over 30,000 singular objects through the mail, including himself; Cyril Hoskin (1910-1981), a Cornish plumber who reinvented himself as a Tibetan lama and went on to sell over a million books; and Elaine Morgan (1920-2013), a journalist who battled a tirade of prejudice to pursue an aquatic-based theory of human evolution, which is today being championed by David Attenborough.
Elsewhere, we uncover the lesser-known obsessions of such historical giants as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726), whose beloved alchemy led to a lifetime’s search for the philosopher’s stone and elixir of life; and philosopher Ren Descartes (1596-1650), whose obsession with cross-eyed ladies led him to seek a ‘cure’ through the first recorded case of CBT.
While many of us are content to lead a conventional life, with all of its comfort and security, THE ODDITORIUM reminds us of the characters who felt compelled to carve their own path, despite risking ostracism, failure, ridicule and madness. While history wouldn’t be the same without the likes of Shakespeare, Caesar and Einstein, it is when curiosity and compulsion meet that conventions are challenged, culture is re-invigorated and we find new ways to understand ourselves and the world around us.
The Odditorium is the sort of book that can spark the imagination and provoke thought through the names and their achievements within the pages. Filled with unknown names in the world of invention, of discovery, of the mind and other areas, this book brings to life some of the strangest people and what they did, but also, positions them within their historical context and in some cases, such as the entry on Joseph Campbell, creator of The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), and the archetype of the hero’s journey that has been played out in movies and literature forever, or the extremely odd, such as Reginald Bray, who sent a multitude of objects through the mail, including himself. Some of these entries are amusing, and leave the reader wondering what possessed the person to do what they did, to the little known names such as Elaine Morgan, who battled prejudice to pursue her theory of aquatic based human evolution – something best known today through Sir David Attenborough.
The characters within these pages – the odd, the outsiders, the ones who just wanted to make a mark on the world, bring a part of history to life that may not always be found in history books. Whether ignored because of prejudice or merely seen as too strange for “the norm”, these characters, these people, have still contributed to the world as we know it, and their stories are well worth knowing.
An intriguing read that can spark the imagination, and leave the reader wanting to know more about these strange yet fascinating people.