‘Trivia is a serious business, not a social occasion.’
Kevin Dwyer, the Trivia Man
For almost four years I’ve been working on a manuscript called ‘The Trivia Man’. Because there were other novels to write, I couldn’t devote myself to the project full-time. Instead, it became a dalliance taking place whenever I found myself between books. An on-again, off-again relationship that I thought I could control, until it got out of hand and I didn’t want to write anything else!
So, who is this fictional guy monopolising my time? Well, he’s a middle-aged forensic accountant by the name of Kevin Dwyer whose life revolves around his weekly trivia night. And why did I choose trivia as his obsession rather than golf or ballroom dancing or even poker? The answer is personal. You see, I was a trivia buff, long before there were trivia contests, pub quizzes or a board game called ‘Trivial Pursuit’ – in fact, long before people ever used the term ‘trivia’ to refer to knowledge both general and esoteric.
Like my protagonist in the novel, I was a child who just loved accumulating facts. But in a pre-internet world, facts weren’t as easy to come by as they are now. There was no Google to do the searching for you. Instead, you had to go to the local library and leaf through weighty reference tomes such as the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’. And although those revered volumes contained a lot of information, it was mostly of the serious, mainstream variety – geographical facts, scientific phenomena, famous people, historical events and so on.
But where could you find those idiosyncratic tidbits you desperately needed to know: the lyrics to a half-remembered song, or the name of Superman’s mother* or Hopalong Cassidy’s horse**? If, like me, you were also a movie buff (yes, we’re talking about a very nerdy child here), and you were trying to recall the title of a particular film or the name of a character or a member of the cast, there was no Internet Movie Database (imdb) to assist you. You had to go to the library shelf numbered 791.43 and browse the movie books.
Back in those days, my head was always full of unanswered questions such as:
- What do the letters L.M. stand for in the name of the author of ‘Anne of Green Gables’? (For years I thought its author was a man. How sexist is that?)
- What are the names of the original Mouseketeers?
- How many cities/towns in the world are called Sydney and where are they?
I could go on indefinitely but you get the drift. Nowadays you can find the answers in a matter of minutes, thanks to Wikipedia. In the past it involved patient and painstaking investigation skills. And even then, you might not succeed in your quest.
Those of us intrigued by informational minutiae never think of it as being trivial. Quite the contrary. We believe those little pieces of data constitute the essence rather than the periphery. After all, the devil is in the detail.
Who coined that phrase, anyway? I’ll just go and Google it…
By the way, my next novel, ‘The Trivia Man’ will be released on 1 June 2015. Read more here.
* Superman’s mother: birth mother - Lara; adoptive mother - Martha Kent
** Hopalong Cassidy’s horse: Topper
1. Lucy Maud Montgomery
2. Original Mouseketeers – too many to list but here are a few - in no particular order except how they emerged from my memory: Annette, Darlene, Doreen, Lonnie, Karen, Cubby
3. Sydney, NSW; Sydney, Nova Scotia
8 November, 2014