This is a new book series published by Remo Giuffré, the Sydney-based creative thinker, entrepreneur and curator of ideas who set up the adored REMO General Store in Darlinghurst in 1988, a personal favourite of mine. It was a place where you’d go to buy someone an unusual gift and come out with a couple of t-shirts, a bathing cap, some toys, a box of cuisenaire rods, and a beach towel for yourself, as well.
After the physical store closed down in the mid-90s, Remo took his business online, where he continues to be a purveyor of all things stylish, clever, zany, amusing and fascinating. He also co-founded TEDxSydney, wrote books and became a Bondi icon.
Subtitled “Everything Interesting”, this book and its following series are a natural progression of Remo’s interests and brushes with the curious and inspired. It consists of 90 explanations of things you never knew needed explaining, or maybe never knew about at all.
Sure, you know what the Limbo dance is, but do you know of its origins on slave ships? How the Slinky came to be? Who invented Scrabble? Jigsaw puzzles? Safety pins? Who the Huldufólk are, or what a Balikbayan box is?
Each item has an erudite, delightfully written account and a page of explanatory illustrations. Individually, they explain how and why certain things came to be and why they may be of greater or lesser significance. Collectively, they represent a hidden social history of mankind, a language of ideas and creativity that lies behind concepts from the most mundane to the most eccentric.
What makes it really work is how Remo’s obvious and endearing love for the stories behind the quirks shines through. He delights in surprising you and questions your assumptions. He reminds me of the quote attributed to Alex Trebek, late host of the long-running Jeopardy quiz show: “I’m curious about everything, – even things that don’t interest me”. I’m pretty sure Alex would have loved this book as much as I do.
Some may view REMORANDOM as mere trivia, of no importance and little relevance. On that level, it is, at least, highly entertaining. Others, like me, will see it as a window into human creativity, a way of answering unasked questions that may change their perspective and encourage new perceptions.
Remo is not the only author, and the plan is to include reader contributions as the series progresses. Having been a long-time follower of Remo, I was confident enough in his ideas for this book series (the next is due in May 2024) to be a Foundation Subscriber. If anyone could live up to that “Everything Interesting” tagline, it’s Remo. And he doesn’t disappoint.