This weird book describes the year that Ammon Shea took to read the entire, 20 volume, 21,730 page Oxford English Dictionary.
There are, unsurprisingly, 26 chapters. Each chapter gives a little background about events that happened during the year such as the Convention for Lexicographers he attended all of whom thought that reading the OED was mad. This autobiographical fragment is then followed by his favourite words for the appropriate letter.
It sounds like a dreadfully boring book but actually it is quite funny. Some of the words are delightful and some are bizarre. The little commentaries he gives on each word are often gems. Often he is delighted to find a word for something he did not think needed to be named. Sometimes the definitions are enthralling.
Favourite word: "Unbepissed (adj) Not having been urinated on. Unwet with urine." (p188). As Shea points out, one must live a strange life is being wet with urine is the norm.
A strange book with delights for vocabularians (p194) such as myself but beware: I started mentioning some of the words to my family and they did not want to know!
"The name of Isaac Bickerstaff Steele borrowed from his friend Swift, who, just before the establishment of the Tatler, had borrowed it from a shoemaker's shop-board, and used it as the name of an imagined astrologer, who should be an astrologer indeed, and should attack John Partridge, the chief of the astrological almanack makers, with a definite prediction of the day and hour of his death. This he did in a pamphlet that brought up to the war against one stronghold of superstition an effective battery of satire. " Isaac Bickerstaff, Physician and Astrologer by Richard Steele. Papers from Steele's Tatler by Henry Morley http://schulers.com/books/ri/i/ISAAC_BICKERSTAFF/ [Accessed 20th June 2009]
The book containing the collection of early Tatlers became known as The Lucubrations of Isaac Bickerstaff. Lucubration, which means to study or meditate, literally means to work by artifical light.
Later an Isaac Bickerstaffe was a playwright who had some success with The Hypocrite (1769), a play that starred a hypocrite called Mawworm. "Irish playwright whose farces and comic operas were popular in the late 18th century. There is no apparent connection between his name and the pseudonym earlier adopted by Jonathan Swift and also used by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele for The Tatler. " Encyclopaedia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/64674/Isaac-Bickerstaffe [Accessed 20th June 2009].
June 2009, 223 pages