Weird Universe Blog — July 7, 2020

The Quest For A Blonde Mistress

Publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius debuted his "little blue books" in 1919. These were cheaply bound, pocket-sized literary and academic works designed to make highbrow culture accessible to the masses. They sold for five cents each.

Haldeman-Julius didn't do this for charity. He wanted to sell as many titles as possible, and to achieve this he would often alter the titles to make them more appealing to consumers. Basically, he would sex up the titles.

For example, he added the subtitle "The Quest for a Blonde Mistress" to Theophier Gautier’s novel The Fleece of Gold. Sales leapt from 6000 to 50,000 copies a year. (Apparently, 'quest for a blonde mistress' is an accurate description of the book's plot.)

Other titles that benefitted from a title change:

• "The Tallow Ball" by Guy de Maupassant became "A French Prostitute's Sacrifice."
None Beneath the King by José Zorrilla became None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman.
• Victor Hugo’s The King Amuses Himself became The Lustful King Enjoys Himself.

Haldeman-Julius didn't always make the titles more risque. Sometimes he emphasized self-improvement, and that also had a positive effect on sales. For example, sales of Thomas De Quincey’s Essay on Conversation jumped when it was renamed How To Improve Your Conversation. Similarly, Arthur Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy became How to Argue Logically. And Dante and Other Waning Classics became Facts You Should Know About the Classics.

Haldeman-Julius was totally open, even boastful, about this strategy. From his book The First Hundred Million:

It is really amazing what the change of a word may do. The mere insertion of a word often works wonders with a book. Take the account of that European mystery of intrigue and political romance, which Theodore M. R. von Keler did for me under the title of The Mystery of the Iron Mask. This title was fair. It certainly tells what the book is about. But there is something aloof about it. It may, says the reader to himself, be another one of those poetic titles. It may fool me, he thinks, and so he bewares. But I changed it to The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, and now there can be no question, for the record is 30,000 against 11,000 copies per year. Two other "slight" additions come to mind. Victor Hugo's drama, The King Enjoys Himself (Rigoletto; translated by Maurice Samuel), and Zorilla's, the Spanish Shakespeare's, None Beneath the King (translated by Isaac Goldberg) were both rather sick—8,000 for the first and only 6,000 for the second. In 1927, lo and behold, the miraculous cure of title-changing brought 34,000 sales for None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman, and 38,000 for The Lustful King Enjoys Himself! Snatched from the grave! Then there was Whistler's lecture, fairly well known under the title Ten o'Clock. But readers of Little Blue Books are numbered by at least ten thousand for each title yearly. Due to the concentrated interest shown in self-education and self-improvement this helpful lecture on art should be read widely—following this reasoning, the proper explanatory title evolved into What Art Should Mean to You. Readers are more interested in finding out what art should mean to them than in discovering what secret meaning may lie behind such a phrase as "ten o'clock." In 1925 the old title sold less than 2,000; in 1927, the sales, stimulated by The Hospital's service mounted to 9,000.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 07, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Literature | Books

Squatter, the Sheep-Raising Game

Entry at games database, with pix.

Wikipedia page.

"Some board games turn up the tension so high you practically sweat through your clothes. Squatter, an Australian import which brings home the high-stakes world of sheep-herding, is probably not one of them."

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jul 07, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals | Farming | Games | Australia

July 6, 2020

The Wyoming Cheese House

Oct 16, 2001: In Powell, Wyoming, artist Cosimo Cavallaro covered a house inside and out with government-surplus pepperjack cheese. He melted the cheese and then sprayed it on with a pump.

Photographer Dan Cepeda, who was assigned to cover the event, offered this commentary:

Specifics of many assignments fade over the years, but what will never fade is the unbearable stink of rancid fake cheese slamming me in the face with vomit-inducing intensity. I've got a strong stomach. I've survived some pretty brutal scents in my life. This one nearly got me.

The house was put on display for two weeks and then demolished.

More info: Cosimo Cavallaro

Casper Star-Tribune - Oct 9, 2016

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 06, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Architecture | Art | Food

Mystery Gadget 85

What's happening to this poor woman?

Answer is here.

Or behind the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jul 06, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Technology | 1930s

July 5, 2020

Square Pants

Patented in 1970 by Harold Koenig of Miami, Florida.

Posted By: Alex - Sun Jul 05, 2020 - Comments (5)
Category: Fashion | 1970s

It’s Tough to Be a Bird!

A definite Disney-Does-Monty-Python vibe in the closing credits.

The Wikipedia entry.

Posted By: Paul - Sun Jul 05, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals | Humor | PSA’s | 1960s

July 4, 2020

Fourth of July Hairdos

The Muncie Star Press - July 4, 1963

Lancaster New Era - Jun 28, 1984

Orangeburg Times and Democrat - July 4, 1986

Fort Lauderdale News - July 3, 1971

Helena Independent-Record - Mar 14, 1948

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 04, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Holidays | Hair and Hairstyling

Happy Fourth of July 2020!

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jul 04, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Anthropomorphism | Holidays | Comics

July 3, 2020

Cranberry Candles

Make mayonnaise candles a holiday tradition...

Life - Nov 14, 1960

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 03, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Food | Advertising | 1960s

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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