A while back I was reading an article on the potential of celebrity children to feel frankly a little silly about being named, say, Peaches Honeybloom Geldof, once they come of age and start wanting careers of their own.
Besides real sympathy, the whole thing—as things are wont to do to me at the oddest moments—triggered off nostalgic flashbacks to my boon companion of rainy afternoons past: the Guinness Book of World Records. Now, I’m not talking about the post-millennium “Guinness World Records’; in fact, leafing through these new ‘relevant’ editions, all foil-gilt covers and colourblocked gossip (“Most Successful Plastic Surgery!”) makes me kind of sad.
The Guinness book of my preteen-hood was a fat Bantam Books paperback, densely packed with doggedly businesslike prose (“The claims of M. Michael Lotito to have eaten a bicycle must, however, be regarded as apocryphal.”) The combination of kaleidoscopic detail and determination to make sense of it was just endlessly charming to me. I can’t really recommend a better way to inspire wholesale fascination with the human experience.