I got an enthusiasm for Top Trumps a few years ago. Someone brought a pack of Lord of the Rings Top Trumps on a New Year jaunt to Cornwall (let’s just reminisce for a moment about that giant sandcastle we built, shall we? Glorious) and I played it to an unhealthy degree. For some reason Gandalf was deemed the most “ferocious” character and there were various other anomalies (yes I became a total Gareth – jump to the 4:00 mark), but it was way fun. The enthusiasm quickly became an obsession and I had to make my own set. The theme was generally “things I like,” and included The Office, England’s Rugby World Cup victory of 2003, Texas Pete (from the cartoon Superted), a cup of tea, a Monkey, a Badger and various other in-jokes. Wales was there as well; it was not a great card apart from its epic 1,000m+ height. However the scoring categories were the best part of it: each card had a rating on 6 different measures: Glory, Sentimentality, Comedy, Je ne sais quoi, Schadenfreude and Height.

So anyway, since one of the themes of this blog is literature/books, I’d like to start compiling a new set of Top Trumps. My initial plan was to make it authors, but I wonder if it would be easier to narrow the scope to just novels. The categories will again be the tricky bit: I’m thinking a mixture of the mundane, the arbitrary and the highbrow. For instance, if the theme was authors:

Canonicity [extent to which works form part of the canon; marks out of 10]; Works published [raw statistic]; Critical reception [general consensus of greatness; marks out of 40]; National importance* [extent to which their work is identified with and helps to define country of origin; out of 5]; Profanity [frequency of swearwords and other lewdness; marks out of 100]; Influence [measure of how many subsequent authors take after, mimic or otherwise reference them; marks out of 50].

Then to take an example, James Joyce (who is likely to be one of the best cards, thinking about it):

Canonicity: 9 (marked down for not being 19th century)

Works published: 5 (crikey, I hope that’s right… Chamber Music, Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake)

Critical reception: 38

National importance: 4 (not sure a 5-point scale is big enough to encompass this one. Loses a mark for accessibility, btw)

Profanity: 94

Influence: 32 (I’m sure there’s lots of writers who’d like to think they take after him, but)

So yeah, I think authors might be funnest. Feel free to suggest alternative categories in the comments, or to fill in the cards for some other authors. I’ll never get this done otherwise.