Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Those wacky Eccentrics!

Author – Chris Mikul
Headpress Books
Illustrations by Glenn Smith

The title of this book is not a misnomer, it is indeed an encyclopedia. This thing is the size of a phone book and had to have taken author Chris Mikul years to research and produce. Mikul has been seeking out the odd, unusual and just plain outrageous people for years from all the way back when he produced his fanzine BIZZARRISM. So this is an accumulation of years and years of his work in one massive volume. He sets up some rules from the get go; there is a thin line between mental illness and eccentricity, so he divides them into several categories: visionaries, entertainers, contrarians, and theorists. In using these categories he also steers clear of famous people with well known moments or foibles (as Mikul puts it) instead concentrating on people whose entire lives encompassed their eccentricity.

The book is just a huge compilation of people from that point on. Some of the expected names are here, such as SALVADOR DALI (His film work, his voyeurism, his move towards signing blank paper and canvases and reselling them as artwork all discussed) or CRISWELL from PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, who had an 86 % success rate in his psychic predictions, (though apparently he did predict JFK was going to have some sort of trouble in 1963), HENRY DARGER the recluse Janitor who turned out to be a brilliant artist who made entire worlds with his art, and DIVINE (If you don't know who Divine is, then why are you reading my blog).

But there are hundreds of less known people in THE ECCENTROPEDIA and that is where the fun lies. Such as Australian actor FRANK THRING who you may know from MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME, you get you discover stories of him smuggling whole roast chickens onto film sets, or his manager having to break into his home when he vanished for a few days only to find him bound and gagged naked. Or DELIA BACON who was among the first to challenge the Shakespear;s legitimacy as a writer. Or how about DR. CHARLOTTE BACH aka KAROLY HAJDU Transsexual Evolutionary Theorist who believed that sexual deviation was the engine that powered evolution. And posed as a man and woman at various times in her life.

When I got this book I was entertaining friends, so the first thing I did was crack it open and just start reading out loud various profiles. It is that kind of book, you can dip in at any point and find something fascinating to share. Every page has a great story, so you can literally flip it open anywhere and start reading. In fact that maybe the best way to handle it, due to the unyielding length, attempting to read it front to back might be too much of a challenge.

Quite simply an unprecedented work. 

Here is an extract from the book

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