Some writers are incredibly productive. James Patterson almost seems to put out books by the week; his stable of co-authors keeps the production line moving. Nora Roberts labors mightily to satisfy her hungry readership. Stephen King pens one massive novel after another.
Patterson, Roberts and King write fiction. Their seemingly prolific natures are as boundless as their imaginations. Writers of nonfiction can take more time writing their books than novelists do. But there's one nonfiction writer who can give those busy novelists a run for their money.
His name is Paul Dickson. I call him "the Vesuvius of Books." Since 1968, when Dickson chose to make a living as a free-lance writer, he has published more than 65 books.
Do the math: This man spews out books the way a volcano spews lava. When he isn't working on a new project he's updating and revising one of his previous works.
Dickson has written many books about baseball. His recent Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick, a biography of the eccentric owner, was widely applauded. Dickson has written specialized dictionaries. His knowledge borders on the encyclopedic.
The latest offering is a new and expanded edition of a book he first published in 1979.
The Official Rules: 5,427 Laws, Principles, and Axioms to Help You Cope with Crises, Deadlines, Bad Luck, Rude Behavior, Red Tape, and Attacks by Inanimate Objects (Dover, $24.95) is a mind-boggling and thoroughly amusing reference work.
Critic Michael Dirda recently wrote that "this is what might be called the ideal bathroom book."
The Official Rules are laid out in alphabetical encyclopedic order. To provide a sense of the ambitious extent of the wide range of rules Dickson cites, check out this random sampling:
■ "Abley's Explanation: Marriage is the only union that cannot be organized. Both sides think they are management." (William J. Abley, Kamloops, British Columbia.)
■ "Carson's Law of Singularity: There's only one fruitcake in the whole world." (Johnny Carson.)
■ "Evelyn's Law: A woman is like a tea bag — you never know her strength until she gets into hot water." (Woman named Evelyn, radio call-in show, WRC, Washington, D.C.)
■ "Liston's Dictum: Everything eventually becomes too high priced." (Robert A. Liston, Shelby, Ohio.)
■ "Mencken's Meta-Law: For every human problem, there is a neat, plain solution — and it is always wrong." (H.L. Mencken.)
■ "Murray's Law: The worst whistlers whistle the most." (Robert E. Murray, San Francisco, Calif.)
■ "Truman's Parental Instruction: I have found that the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want, and then advise them to do it. (Harry S. Truman.)
■ "Truman's Law: If you can't convince them, confuse them." (Harry S. Truman.)
Do you see what I mean? Dickson has a peculiar genius when it comes to compiling compendiums of knowledge nuggets that can inform, amuse, and hopefully, edify us. If you peruse The Official Rules, I guarantee you'll soon be sharing your new knowledge with friends and colleagues.
Meanwhile, I'll be waiting for Dickson's next literary eruption. We probably won't wait long.