When one thing leads to another

By Steve Scott

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If you've ever visited Wikipedia and decided to follow the hyperlinks from one piece of "essential" information to an even more "imperative" gem but then, strangely, ended up back where you started, then you have a lot in common with Stevyn Colgan. He is the master of the trivial, the collector and cataloguer of the forgotten and inane - but no matter how worthless and unnecessary the information, Colgan has the knack of making it all sound intensely fascinating.

Joined-Up Thinking is to information what "six degrees of separation" is to people. Colgan's tongue-in-cheek theory proposes that everything on this planet is connected to everything else.

In "Round One", for example, he manages to find a connection between the number seven, Isaac Newton, rainbows, Pink Floyd, The Wizard of Oz, and, of course, Shakespeare. Other rounds feature everything from Dr Who and Star Trek to Prince Charles and Robert the Bruce - if you've heard of it, chances are that Colgan has not only logged and labelled it, but also tied it to something else you thought completely unrelated.

He connects each piece of his trivia puzzle in a concise, chatty, easy to follow, even logical, manner. This free-flowing style does not, thankfully, lend itself to pause and evaluation, but does allow for a great deal of chuckling and chin-stroking. This is the sort of book that you will read and then spend the next month or so scratching your head and wondering just how it is, exactly, you know that avocados are poisonous, that indigo is really just a shade of violet, or that Wilma Flintstone had two maiden names, Pebble or Slaghoople, depending on which episode you watched, or that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair owns a telephone that resembles a Harley-Davidson.

You've read the information, encoded and assimilated it, and now you are recycling it - everyone loves kernels of wisdom, especially those that allow you to appear knowledgeable or humorous - and Colgan's do.

What Colgan has really done, here, is to take a rather absurd yet highly intelligent and addictive parlour trick, and delightfully repackaged it as an easily consumed diversion. He traverses everything from high art to popular culture in an insightful, colourful and highly readable fashion.

Joined Up Thinking
By Stevyn Colgan (MacMillan $45)

* Steve Scott is an Auckland reviewer.

- NZ Herald

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