Try Not to be Strange

Try Not to be Strange

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On his fifteenth birthday, in the summer of 1880, future science-fiction writer M.P. Shiel sailed with his father and the local bishop from their home in the Caribbean out to the nearby island of Redonda—where, with pomp and circumstance, he was declared the island’s king. A few years later, when Shiel set sail for a new life in London, his father gave him some advice: Try not to be strange. It was almost as if the elder Shiel knew what was coming.

Try Not to Be Strange: The Curious History of the Kingdom of Redonda tells, for the first time, the complete history of Redonda’s transformation from an uninhabited, guano-encrusted island into a fantastical and international kingdom of writers. With a cast of characters including forgotten sci-fi novelists, alcoholic poets, vegetarian publishers, Nobel Prize frontrunners, and the bartenders who kept them all lubricated while angling for the throne themselves, Michael Hingston details the friendships, feuds, and fantasies that fueled the creation of one of the oddest and most enduring micronations ever dreamt into being. Part literary history, part travelogue, part quest narrative, this cautionary tale about what happens when bibliomania escapes the shelves and stacks is as charming as it is peculiar—and blurs the line between reality and fantasy so thoroughly that it may never be entirely restored.


Praise for Try Not to Be Strange

“This combination literary history, travelogue and cautionary tale tells the history of the formerly uninhabited Caribbean island of Redonda and its development into a ‘micronation’ ruled by writers, beginning with the science fiction author M.P. Shiel in 1880.”
—New York Times

“That spirit, the tongue-in-cheek mock seriousness of the whole endeavour, and the playfulness of its participants, is a keen factor in Try Not to Be Strange. The book is a delightful reading experience, utterly unexpected and unlike anything you are likely to read this year.”
—Toronto Star

“A wonderfully entertaining book, an account of how its Canadian author grew fascinated with a literary jape, a kind of role-playing game or shared-world fantasy involving some of the most eccentric and some of the most famous writers of modern times.”
—Washington Post

“Highly recommend … The fact that it involved M.P. Shiel is just the beginning of the strangeness. Great read!”
—Patton Oswalt

“Hingston traces the story of one of the strangest kingdoms in the world … a fascinating account.”
—Winnipeg Free Press

Try Not to be Strange is an enjoyable account of a bizarre not-quite-real place, with a rich cast of characters—not least Hingston himself, who amusingly tracks his own obsessiveness.”
—Complete Review

“Combining travelogue, memoir, and literary history, Hingston has crafted a fascinating tale full of eccentric characters. Editions of all sizes play a role in the drama, and bibliophiles will also relish the author’s auction experience.”
—Fine Books and Collections Magazine

Try Not to Be Strange is a passionate and skillfully written exploration of an extraordinary world and those who search for such places to get to the heart of what stories really mean. Hingston’s thirst for deeper knowledge is palpable, and it illuminates what the kingdom might really stand for.”
—Quill & Quire

“Full of colorful personalities, exotic locales, and unexpected twists, this is a jaunty historical footnote.”
Publishers Weekly

Praise for Michael Hingston

“[Hingston] does it all with a delicious sense of humour.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Wise and love-driven … full of observations, analysis, and well-researched history.”
Edmonton Journal

“A fresh take on the campus novel, Michael Hingston’s debut is a droll, incisive dissection of the terrible, terribly exciting years known as post-adolescence.”
—Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers

“This book captures the joy and excitement at first discovering Calvin and Hobbes, and the wistful sadness that it is no more.”
—Patton Oswalt

The Dilettantes is a whip-smart and very funny literary portrait of the post-ironic generation. Don’t miss this.”
—Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People

“His insights are rich and concise, but he never commandeers the work, as is the habit with writing about pop culture. As a critic, Hingston uses light touches of salt to bring out the flavours already in the work … A fine companion to a comic about a kid without much interest in companionship.”
—Bookshelf News

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