Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mr. PC

I recently finished reading More Information Than You Require, the second volume in John Hodgman's three-volume almanac of made-up facts. Was I unwise to start with this volume instead of going back and reading the first book? I don't really think it matters, and I've read enough of The Areas of My Expertise in bookstores to know what I was getting into.

The genius of Hodgman's books is that he doesn't just make up things for the sake of being absurd. There's a kernel of truth at the center of all good jokes and while everything nearly Hodgman describes in his books is not true, much of it is rooted in the truth.

After an outstanding start that includes a listing of all US Presidents and important details about their lives (including whether or not they had a hook for a hand), More Information Than You Require starts to drag early in the second half when Hodgman gets stuck talking about how he fell ass-backwards into fame on the success of his first book and the subsequent acting roles to which it led. It's written in a fish-out-of-water tone, but he goes on and on about it for so long that I'm not sure if all of the fame has gone to his head or he's impersonating a writer who stumbled into fame and let it go to his head.

Once he gets off that digression, the book has its moments, but it never really recovers. I was looking forward to the chapter on mole-men, but it wasn't very funny or poignant. The list of 700 mole-man names was tedious reeked of the self-indulgence of the earlier chapters about Hodgman's life as a minor celebrity.

I should go back and read The Areas of My Expertise someday, since it was written before Hodgman became a minor celebrity and probably doesn't have as many digressions into his personal life, but I'm not going to rush out to pick up volume three whenever it arrives.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All in the Family

This interview with Jeff Sharlet is a couple weeks old, but it's a really interesting look at a religious right group known as The Family. I consider myself fairly well informed on matter of church/state and culture war issues, but I had never heard of them before. Their secretive, trickle-down prosperity gospel is brazen, even by religious right standards. Sharlet's book about The Family sounds like an excellent read.

Thursday, July 02, 2009