Weird Universe


The First Do-It-Yourself Novel

Composition No. 1 by Marc Saporta was the first-ever do-it-yourself or interactive novel. It was published in French in 1962, and an English translation followed a year later. The novel came in a box, as a set of looseleaf pages. Readers were instructed to "shuffle them like a deck of cards" before reading, so that chance would decide the order of events in the narrative.

image source: Newsweek - Oct 28, 1963

In 2011, Visual Editions came out with an elegantly boxed new edition of the work (available on Amazon). As well as an iPad version of it that automatically shuffles the pages.

Jonathan Coe, reviewing the new edition for the Guardian in 2011, offered this summary of the book's plot:

The story is a flimsy wisp of a thing, really no more than a jumble of fragments. The setting is Paris during the German occupation. The central character is little glimpsed and never named. He has a mistress called Dagmar, a depressed wife (I think) called Marianne, and a young German au pair whom he rapes during the course of the novel, before being injured in a serious car accident.

Coe noted that the British Library had two copies of the original novel, "both, I'm sorry to say, diligently bound by over-zealous librarians (though at least each copy has the pages bound in a different order)."
Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Nov 20, 2015 | Comments (1)
Category: Literature, Books, 1960's

Fox Tossing and Other Sports

This new book by Edward Brooke-Hitching looks like a good read (Amazon link), and potentially of interest to WU readers. From the publisher's blurb:
Have you ever wondered what people did for fun throughout history? Edward Brooke-Hitching began to wonder the same thing while flipping through an eighteenth-century German book on hunting, and found a bygone sport in which German nobles launched foxes into the air. This random discovery of a game that slipped through the mainstream historical cracks led him to wonder: how many other sports have been left out of modern history accounts?

It looks like it was released first in the UK with the title Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling, and Other Forgotten Sports. But for the US release, the publisher dropped the "Octopus Wrestling" from the title. Why? I think the longer title is better. Perhaps they thought the idea of octopus wrestling was too weird for us Americans. Or perhaps they figured that Americans don't read much, so we need a shorter title.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Nov 17, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Sports, Books

Kaz’s Underworld Collection


[Click to enlarge]

Please be sure to watch out for the new collection of one of my favorite comic strips. A great Weird Xmas Gift!

Posted By: Paul | Date: Sat Nov 14, 2015 | Comments (2)
Category: Comics, Books

How to Cook Husbands


Alas, I wanted this 1898 book to be a tract by an angry feminist cannibal, but it is not--as you can see for yourself, if you go here.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Oct 22, 2015 | Comments (4)
Category: Cannibalism, Feminism, Food, Books, Nineteenth Century

John Duval Gluck:  Santa Claus Con Man


The story of this Xmas scammer--as summarized in this article--strikes me as eminently weird, and is detailed at length in the book linked to below. I trust an author whose other publication is the "Weird-o-Pedia."

Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun Oct 04, 2015 | Comments (1)
Category: Holidays, Scams, Cons, Rip-offs, and General Larceny, Books, 1910's

The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell

Marc Hartzman, author of the weird classic God Made Me Do It (featured here on WU back in 2010) is back with a new journey into the bizarre — The Embalmed Head of Oliver Cromwell - A Memoir. Marc writes:

This historical fiction book follows the real history of Cromwell's head through 300 years of posthumous journeys across England (1661-1960), all told from the head's perspective. Imagined anecdotes complement the true historical notes, which include many real historical characters and events, such as the rise of Spiritualism, phrenology, the Elephant Man, surgeon John Hunter, and a lot more. 

Not only is it the first memoir of an embalmed head, but it is also, I believe, the first book to come with a theme song. It was written and performed by singer/songwriter/pianist Stephie Coplan, whose song, “Hey Oliver Cromwell!” is now available on iTunes and Spotify, and here on Soundcloud [below].

The cover was fully illustrated by Brooklyn artist Vi Luong.

More details at the publisher's site:

Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Jul 20, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Literature, Books

The Bible Diet

The spiritual nourishment was too rich for this boy's system.

Source: Florence Morning News - Jan 9, 1926.

More >>
Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Jul 13, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Food, Religion, Books, 1920's

How the Bank Sneak Works


After a lifetime of crime, Harry Schindler was thoughtful enough to divulge all his tricks for the edification of bankers and other monied types.

Read the whole thing here.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Tue Jul 07, 2015 | Comments (6)
Category: Crime, Books, 1910's

Put Men in Girdles

Dr. Peter Steincrohn's 1969 book (available used on Amazon) promised to reveal how one could be "lazy, healthy, & fit." For years before he published the book, Steincrohn had also been writing newspaper columns in which he promoted his formula for health. The secret was girdles.

He felt that all men over 40, in particular, should be wearing girdles just like their wives (this was the 1960s), because he believed that girdles promoted good circulation and thus meant the heart didn't have to work as hard pumping blood. Wearing a girdle, he promised, would "add years to a man's life."

The Abilene Reporter-News - Nov 23, 1964
Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Feb 27, 2015 | Comments (1)
Category: Health, Books, 1960's

Thank You For Buying…

My wife noticed this posted on and brought it to my attention. So I thought I'd share it here.

Occasionally people ask me to sign and write a note in copies of my book, and I never know what to write. But thanks to this receipt, I've now got a go-to phrase!

Posted By: Alex | Date: Fri Feb 20, 2015 | Comments (3)
Category: Books, Alex
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, 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.