“How to be Topp: A Guide to Sukcess for Tiny Pupils,…

Including All There is to Kno about Space (1954), by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle.” Nigel Molesworth is a fictional character, the supposed author of a series of books about life in an English prep school named St Custard’s.

Thorold writes at librarything.fr:

“…There seem to be at least four books on LT called How to pass exams, but none of them looks like an obvious candidate.

The date and the character of the advice make it sound a bit like the Stephen Potter Gamesmanship books, but as with Molesworth you’d probably remember those.

I suppose made-up quotations are a bit harder to get away with nowadays, unless the candidate has time to plant the bogus quotation on a Wikipedia page before the examiner Googles it…”

From Wikipedia:

Stephen Meredith Potter (1 February 1900 – 2 December 1969) was a British author best known for his parodies of self-help books, and their film and television derivatives. His series of humorous books on how to secure an unfair advantage began in 1947 with Gamesmanship, purporting to show how poor players can beat better ones by subtle psychological ploys. This sold prodigiously and led to a series of sequels covering other aspects of life. The books were adapted for the cinema in the 1960s and for television in the 1970s…”

Bernard O’Donoghue wrote in the Irish Times of Oct 21, 2006:

“…There are ways that this part of the project could have gone wrong, of course: the most obvious is what Stephen Potter in Oneupmanship called “Rilking” – making clever or unlikely choices (preferably in a foreign language) which testify more to the chooser’s cleverness than their preferences…”

From: Lifemanship: With a Summary of Recent Researches in Gamesmanship (1950), by Stephen Potter:

What does Lifemanship mean? Easy question to pose, difficult to answer in a phrase. A way of life pervading each thought and conditioning our every action? Yes, but something much more, even though it only exists, as pervasive, intermittently. “How to live”— – yes, but the phrase is too negative. In one of the unpublished notebooks of Rilke there is a phrase that might be our text, “…if you’re not one up (Bitzleisch) you’re…one down (Rotzleisch).

How to be one up—, how to make the other person feel that something has gone wrong, however slightly. The Lifeman is never caddish, but how simply, and certainly often, he or she can make the other person feel a cad, and over prolonged periods.”

John Holbo writes at examinedlife.typepad.com:

In Lifemanship, Stephen Potter describes a mode of immanent critique: ‘newstatesmanship’, a strong variant on ‘damned-good journalist play”, and a thing effectively supplemented by ‘Rilking’:

“In Newstatesmaning the critic must always be on top of, or better than, the person criticised. Sometimes the critic will be of feeble and mean intelligence. The subject of his criticism may be a man of genius. Yet he must get on top. How? the layman asks.

By the old process – of going one better. Hope-Tipping of Buttermere had never really read a book since his schooldays, much less formed an original judgment. But he specialized in his own variations on the formula. He would skim some review dealing with the author involved, find the quality for which this author was most famous, and then blame him for not having enough of it.

H.-T. first made a name for himself in 1930 by saying that “the one thing that was lacking, of course, from D. H. Lawrence’s novels, was the consciousness of sexual relationship, the male and female element in life.”

Get the Hope-Tipping angle. Talk about the almost open sadism of Charles Lamb, or about Lytton Strachey as a master of baroque. “The deep superficiality of Catullus” is Hope-Tipping’s, too. Never, by any shadow of a chance, was there a hint of cliché in the judgments of Hope-Tipping.”

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