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I write as a sow piddles (Mozart)
on 17 May 2009
Ever read the entirety of a reference book, cover to cover? Me neither. And you won't be counting Advanced Banter: The QI Book of Quotations as a first, I'm fairly sure. This rather sizeable collection definitely works best as something to dip into. The quotations are split thematically, and although you sense that they gathered the material first and then separated it out, this doesn't detract from its quality. Comedians, scientists, artists, statesmen, novelists and philosophers are counted among the talking heads in a collection that runs the gamut from the profound to the throwaway, the clever-clever to the surprisingly heartfelt. (It's this jumping about in terms of tone, by the way, that makes this book best taken down from your shelf and dipped into little and often.) All the usual topics are here - love, duty, wisdom - but much of the material is surprisingly fresh and wisely avoids many of the hackneyed aphorisms that we could probably all already quote. Less Oscar Wilde, more Russian proverbs, as it happens. Not that I subscribe to the really quite ridiculous premise of this book - that you might drop one of its pearls into your conversations. Not in the world I inhabit, certainly. However unrealistic, if you like what can be done with a well-chosen word, it's well worth swallowing this for the opportunity to treasure such lines as `You can recognise a cruel man: he cries in the cinema' (Graham Greene). I like that one.