The Odditorium by David Bramwell and Jo Keeling is dedicated to the forgotten eccentrics of our world.
These are people who march to the beat of a different drum. Their obsessions, compulsions and brilliance prove that some people will tolerate no limits and sometimes change the world with their disregard for the rules of normal society.
Some are visionaries, others crackpots, some are geniuses ahead of their time, but they are all intriguing and give the reader a tiny glimpse into the breadth and width of humans and human nature.
You will meet:
- Cyril Hoskin, an unemployed British plumber, who wrote a book pretending he was a Tibetan lama. Hoskin had never travelled out of Britain. His book, The Third Eye, oddly, remains a best seller on Tibetan Buddhism despite being a total fabrication.
- the flamboyant Quentin Crisp who lived openly homosexual in London in the 1930s, deciding to live his true life without shame.
- the worst inventor in history–Thomas Midgley–who not only added lead to petrol but added CFCs to aerosols, which have almost destroyed the ozone layer.
The ladies figure strongly. Consider:
- Maggie and Kate Fox, the teenage sisters responsible for the rise of spiritualism in the mid-1800s. Or
- Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who is billed as the ‘most hated woman in America’. Her sin was to be an outspoken atheist in the 1960s.
This book can be read all at once, but it is delightful to just dip in and out, reading a few pages here and there. Written in its own quirky and humorous style that suits the subject matter, it had me sometimes laughing out loud sometimes.
I understand that many of the photographs used are old black and white, but a couple of colour photographs would have enhanced the book for me. This is but a small quibble for a brilliantly researched book that I recommend as a fun read, or as a taster for further exploration.
The book contains further resources for those that wish to explore these weird and wonderful people in more depth. I know I did.