Picks and Pans Review: Cannibals in the Cafeteria

updated 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/05/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Stephen Pile

Eleven years ago, Pile—the founding member of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain—published The Book of Heroic Failures. It was such a success that it finally forced his ouster from the very club he formed. Pile nonetheless continued to compile his list of life's great incompetents, many of whom can be found in the pages of this very funny follow-up.

Cannibals in the Cafeteria casually introduces us to the best of the inept and the brightest of the incompetent:

•Glynn de Moss "Scotty" Wolfe, who, in 1986, set a world record with 26 divorces (he divorced his 23rd wife on the grounds that she used his toothbrush). In his lifetime Wolfe, 80, has shelled out more than $l million in alimony and keeps a supply of wedding dresses in his closet. He is now wed to the former Daisy Delgado, 15.

•During World War II, a Japanese kamikaze pilot survived II suicide missions. Although he left with only enough fuel for a one-way trip and no ammunition, the pilot returned safely each time. He later wrote a biography in which he claimed the planes he flew were unsafe. He died at 93.

•In 1974 the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued 80,000 promotional buttons for a pre-Christmas campaign. The buttons bore the words FOR KIDS' SAKE, THINK TOY SAFETY. All the buttons were withdrawn when the commission found they had sharp edges, parts easily swallowed by a child, and paint that had a dangerously high lead content.

Cannibals in the Cafeteria is a quick, relaxing read. Pile keeps the items concise and writes them in a straightforward, underplayed manner that brings the humor of the situations to the fore. His portraits show a band of miscreants so sympathetic they defy the adage—They can win for losing. (Harper & Row, $15.95)

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