I have a passion for acquiring odd and obcure books. I think this is because, in my childhood, the teeming shelves of our home always seemed full of surprises and mysterious titles. I have no idea what member of my family acquired Portugese Africa and the West, or why, but the enigmatic presence of such books always gave me a sense of the sublime, of the limitless potential of life.
(The weirdest title on our bookshelves is the title I've given this post. What could possibly beat that? Bear in mind that zany for the sake of zany is out; it has to be a book that someone might conceivably want to read.)
Anyway, one upshot of this fascination is that I can rarely see a quirky book on a bargain bookstall without picking it up. (And paying for it, I hasten to add.)
Today I've been leafing through Oh, Come on All Ye Faithful by Dekek Nimmo (Corgi Books,1986), which is a collection of ecclesiastical humour.
I don't know if the name of Derek Nimmo is familiar to you. It wasn't to me. He was an English actor who specialised in playing clergymen. So much so that he decided to put together a compendium of churchy humour.
And the results...please don't misunderstand. I like groaners. I am a fan of long-whiskered jokes. Terrible puns delight me. "Alternative" humour makes me sick, since my preference is for good old-fashioned funny stories with a set-up, a punch-line, and preferably the use of some national or ethnic or other stereotypes.
But these are awful. Just awful. I think Oh, Come on All Ye Faithful must be the least funny book I've ever read.
Here is an example taken nearly at random (I promise):
"Parishioners who show an interest in their incumbent's work will meet with some unexpected revelations at times. A vicar who was asked by one of his flock what he thought had been his principal contribution to the life of the church in his first twelve months, replied positively, 'People here didn't know what sin was until I came."
That kind of thing. Do I regret laying out one euro on it? Not a chance. I enjoy the impossibly quaint atmosphere and the sheer Englishness of it all. And, really, how many people do you know with a copy of Oh, Come on All You Faithful by Derek Nimmo?