Kooks, queers and those who simply appreciate a little quirkiness will get plenty out of David Bramwell and Jo Keeling’s handsome compendium The Odditorium.
It is a book packed with awesome stories (and we do mean awesome in the sincerest sense of the word) that will make you wonder about the absurd lengths people will go to, to challenge the norm, extrapolate on the impossible, or simply stand out.
Throughout the ages, mankind has delivered its fair share of eccentrics who’ve gone against the grain, despite convention and consensus, to create new ways of thinking or behaving, sometimes even going on to invent brilliant – and occasionally useless – things.
This book celebrates a bunch of those folks: people whose odd obsessions may or may not have changed the world, but that have certainly left their mark.
There’s Nellie Bly, the journalist who faked her own insanity in order to get into a mental asylum so as to observe and report on its abusive conditions. There’s James Graham, the world’s first ‘sexologist’ who, in the late 18th Century created a magnetised, fetish-decorated bed so as to demonstrate the potential of ‘great’ sex. And then there’s Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, the spiritual lama who had a surgical operation to literally open up his ‘third eye’.
These deviants are in the company of better-known names who, whilst much of their work is recognised and celebrated in the annals of history, some of it was too over-the-top and tragically fell by the wayside.
This ode to the obscure-minded reminds us that while many of these ‘outside-of-the-box’ thinkers have dedicated their lives to failure or redundancy, some have seen their out-there ways inspire forward thinking, better behaviour and even invention. Timothy Leary, for example, might have been written off as some looney on an LSD bender in the late 1960s but in fact his open-minded manner of thinking inspired the environmental movement and even triggered ideas in technology. Edith Sitwell may have come across as a schizophrenic poet back in the early 1900s but she could well be credited now as the world’s first official rap artist.
So open your own mind and delve into the already-opened mentes of some of history’s strangest thinkers and doers. Who knows? It might inspire you to put forward your own whacked-out agenda… and the world just may be a better place for it. Antonino Tati
‘The Odditorium’ by David Bramwell and Jo Keeling is published through Hachette Australia and available in hardback, RRP $32.99 or eBook RRP $16.99.