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A Paradise Of Individuality,
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This review is from: Eccentropedia, The (Paperback)
Eccentropedia is an encyclopedia of the eccentric people of the English-speaking world. It's obviously not going to be exhaustive, but it makes a very impressive stab at being comprehensive. These 225, often illustrated, potted biographies, include famous, infamous and little-known eccentrics from the Renaissance to the present day. The many genres take in scientists (e.g. Parsons, Tesla), conspiracy/cult & religious leaders (e.g. Icke, Blavatsky) writers/artists (e.g. Lovecraft, Dali) musicians (e.g. Liberace, Jackson), and a host of others; recluses, sculpture-builders and tunnelers, extravagant nobility (self-appointed and otherwise), visionaries and business people all populate the pages of this fascinating read. It's organised sensibly in alphabetical order of surname rather than attempting to classify subjects by the harder-to-define "type of eccentricity", and contains an index and bibliography of sources.
In his introduction the author explains that there are a few criteria for entry - he tried for example to include only people whose lives were dominated by eccentricity, rather than someone otherwise "normal" who had perhaps has done some crazy things.
While international in its catchment, the author hails from Sydney and so there are some really interesting entries about Australasian people I've never heard of (with the notable exception of one of my female heroes, Rosaleen Norton). English language media and education seems to me to be a tad USA- and Euro- centric, perhaps somewhat forgetful of the wealth of culture among other English speaking nations in Australasia and Africa). Thus we hear of some of the odd characters to have inhabited Sydney but by the same token, the smaller-time eccentrics from cities in the UK and USA aren't mentioned (the likes of Wilf Lunn, for example, the eccentric British inventor and his never-ending range of useless gadgets constantly wheeled out on TV in the 1980s, was always unlikely to get a mention!) I was however surprised to see no Keith Moon, whose biography Dear Boy is the story of perhaps one of the UK's most eccentric sons.
That said, with it being an encyclopedia, and with the author helpfully offering his email address with reference to "future additions", this book can only grow in size, and I sincerely hope it becomes the standard who's who of incredibly interesting people.