Richard Wiseman writes in his Quirkology, his exploration of unexpected psychological studies, that folks find jokes with ducks to be the funniest of all animals. He wonders whether we have an attachment to the animal, or whether we actually are amused by words with the "k" sound.
Mark Caro wondered about this study when pondering our reaction to foie gras in The Foie Gras Wars, which recently won the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (that's GLIBA) for nonfiction.* He felt that our particular attraction to ducks (and my bookseller Greg confirmed that this was his favorite bird, and not to eat) made the practice an easy target for animal rights activists (as opposed to something like chicken processing. You'll have to read his book for the contradictions involved in all this, because I'm only mentioning this book in passing.)
I've also taken an informal study and found that the duck may not be as beloved in my trading area as some would think.
Study one: I buy animal tape measures to sell, 24 of them. I have 4 left, and 3 of them are ducks.
Study two: I buy Wiggles, these wooden toys that really don't do much of anything but wiggle (they are a variation on my beloved wooden robots). They came in 4 varieties, a mixed prepack, as we say. We have sold 7 of 12. What's the one variety I haven't sold? A duck. We surely thought they would do as well as or better than the scary clown, but no! The clown is sold out.
So now we bought some alarm clocks. They are similar to the ones we had one we first opened, but they have animal sounds for their alarm, instead of a buzz. Most of the booksellers really like them, and we sold a cat almost immediately. I did not buy a duck, and that sort of makes me sad. Did I err? I can reorder.
But look at the results of my study! This is like ordering the author for whom you haven't sold their last two books, but you decide to bring in the next one anyway, even though there's nothing that indicates (more reviews, touring in the area, an endorsement from the Dalai Lama) that things are gonna pick up this time around. I leave out any examples for fear of hate mail.
*The fiction winner of the GLIBA prize is Joe Meno's The Great Perhaps. Both authors read at Boswell!
The Super Bowl of Children’s Literature, 2/2/14
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