Isms and Ologies by Arthur Goldwag
One of the seven sections here is solely about Sexual Perversions.
Isms and Ologies is an unusual sort of encyclopaedia in that it attempts to define all of – well, 453 of - the doctrines that have shaped the world thus far. It's hardly comprehensive, but it is written to be readable and entertaining. Perhaps it tries too hard to be entertaining, since one of the seven sections here is solely about Sexual Perversions - which are all, perversely enough, pretty dull. The most engrossing sections are those on Politics (lots of fighting) and Religion (huge lots of fighting). The most engrossing articles are those about obscure things, such as Muggletonianism, Mugwumpism or Antidisetablishmentarianism, which is here revealed not to be the longest word in English, and therefore pretty useless. All of this is somehow very trivial though, and as a reference work this book is bettered by most encyclopaedias. It's written quite objectively, but Goldwag has a good eye for amusing details such as noting that a classic of Social Realist art is called My First Tractor, or that Freud referred to himself as a 'conquistador by temperament'. This does make the book worth dipping into, but as most of the information here is readily available either online or in standard reference works, this is hardly an essential read. [Ryan Agee]
Out Now, Published by Quercus, Cover price £12.99