How to Double the Meaning of Life was written by Anil, the nom de plume of Chas. Melton – “preacher turned biologist and serial killer (of words),” according to the cover notes. It is obvious he has a love of words, though sometimes that works to his detriment.
Anil has filled his 300-plus pages with linguistic gymnastics: definitions, anagrams, poems, fictional book titles, homophones, spoonerisms and puns. The man never met a pun he didn’t want to inflict on his readers. (Much of what appears here was previously published, he tells us, in Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics.) He also offers hundreds of quotations, from Benny Hill to Samuel Beckett, that loosely fit the topics at hand.
Some of his efforts are amusing. He explains that “ub” is the anatomically correct spelling of “up” and the opposite of “qown.” Many of his skewed definitions – “daffynitions” – will make the reader smile. He explains “howdy duty” as “In small towns you’re expected to say hello to everyone.”
But other offerings are woefully sophomoric (“I shall now titillate you by showing you my titties, sorry, tittles – little unfinished or unstarted writings … ”) or so convoluted that it’s just not worth the effort (“long john silver” is defined as “what a cool klepto wares home from a hotel”).
Also off-putting is the book’s typography, which at times comes across as scattershot. Throw in dozens of Jasmine Jordan’s line drawings, and the overall feel is jumbled.
Finding gems in this book takes a little work; it’s best not to try to read it in two or three sittings. A quick look here, a five-minute perusal there, and the reader will avoid being overwhelmed or frustrated. Stick with small doses, and be surprised when something memorable pops up.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.