Top critical review
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Fluffy fun, full of fascinating facts
on 5 March 2011
This is a collection of Toksvig's columns from the Sunday Telegraph, running from 19 June 2005 to 5 April 2009, each about a thousand words long. They are light fare, cheery-yet-grumbly ramblings, laced with benign humour:
It won't surprise you to learn that as a Dane I have had a long association with [Lego]. (Indeed, if you have the average British person's knowledge of Denmark, you might be equally unmoved to learn that I was brought up by herrings and once met Hamlet's father.)
The pieces are composed of personal anecdotes and historical trivia. Sandi presumably trawls the internet for this stuff, but she succeeds in pulling up endless interesting factoids. Idi Amin kept films of "Tom & Jerry". Longfellow was the first American with indoor plumbing. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a coded Catholic catechism. Here's a story about a little girl visiting the studio of sculptor Gutzon Borglum as he chisels at a block of stone:
Lincoln's face was becoming recognisable and the child stared at the piece in amazement. "Is that Abraham Lincoln?" she asked. "Yes," Borglum replied. The girl shook her head and breathlessly asked: "How did you know he was inside there?"
The book is crammed with little smiles like that, and though they may all lie within the public domain, it is very pleasant to have them served up in snack-size nuggets like this. Attempts to retain all these oddities in your head are doomed to fail, as the book overflows with them. I give it 3 stars, since it's finally insubstantial; but it hovers towards 4 stars as a fun read.