Puzzling and Improbable Questions and Answers
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A fun, fact-filled snack for the terminally informed. Who would ask or answer a question like, “Do people who were born blind ever dream?” The answer is, a Webmaster at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. And yes, blind people hear and feel in their dreams. In 20 chapters like Food, Music, Finance, Words, and including Odds and Ends and Off the Wall, McLain provides intriguing questions and answers along with subsections like Did You Know?, Factoids, and references to Web sites and Internet resources for further information (including Santa’s e-mail address). The many diverse facts are enlivened by the author’s wit, so that the Sports question “What is the difference between billiards, snooker, and pool?” is followed by the parenthetic “Are you waiting for a cue?” Many of the Ripley’s-type facts intend to astound more than stump, such as the printing of a $100,000 bill and the existence of a 12,000- year-old shrub. Other information challenges us to know why “Geronimo” is yelled before leaping (the chief escaped the cavalry with a daring jump) or why our keyboards are designed as they are (the T and H keys require different fingers to keep typewriters from jamming). Most of the challenges challenge, but we knew that green mailboxes aren—t for mailing. At least half of the book, however, is stuff we didn—t want to know, such as that a Johnny Carson joke began a toilet-paper shortage, that there’s a name on the US map 49 letters long, and that the nation’s favorite pizza topping is pepperoni. If going to the beach this August and being out of touch with our information overload makes you feel like a fish out water, then this is the book to take along.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-16512-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999