Friday, October 07, 2005

If you ever won an Ig Nobel, what would it be for?

This year's Ig Nobel winners were announced today.

The acknowledged achievements involved penguin poo, artificial dog testicles, locust Star Wars fans, frog smells, and exploding trousers. And the Ig Nobel Prize for Literature was an upset.
Literature - The many Nigerians who introduced millions of e-mail users to a "cast of rich characters... each of whom requires just a small amount of expense money so as to obtain access to the great wealth to which they are entitled".
So, what might you win an Ig Nobel for?

I had to think really hard, but I realized that about 25 years ago, I did do something that might at least get me considered for an Ig Nobel Prize for Literature.

Back then I worked for a major book wholesaler, and they offered a special service to libraries: formatted catalogue cards printed with each book's Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress information plus a brief annotation.

That's what I did: I wrote thousands and thousands of those 30-words-or-less mini-synopses that you find in library card catalogues (now on computers, but originally on those extra-stiff index cards).

These were objective, straightforward annotations of auto-repair manuals, children's pop-up books, physics texts, Pynchon novels, Jackie Collins trash, law books, religious works, dog breed guides…. And the use of words containing more than five syllables was frowned upon, mainly because of the risk of really jagged line breaks.

Understand -- I’m pushing the editorial quantity here, not the editorial quality. Plus the diversity. Plus the artistic suffering -- everything was handwritten in quintuplicate because personal office computers basically didn't exist and coworkers complained that typewriters were too noisy.

So what have you been working on? A caller ID blocker unblocker reblocker? Once-a-month disposable Y-front condoms? A psycho-veterinary investigation into canine Fourth of July aversion?

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