Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Areas of My Expertise, by John Hodgman

I saw this book in the bookstore last year and made note of it because the dust jacket appeared to signal the book as the work of a crazy person, like Ted L. Nancy's Letters From a Nut. Then, a few weeks ago, when I was waiting in the city library for the kids I tutor, who were blowing me off again, I looked this book up and was happy to see it was available. I leafed through the pages and was pleasantly surprised by its extensive section regarding hoboes. I'm a big fan of hoboes, and I discribe my fashion style as "hobo chic." When I saw page after page of hobo material, I immediately reached for my library card.

It turned out that perhaps there's such a thing as TOO much hobo material. I was barely 50 names into the list of 700 hobo names when I thought, "I really didn't need much more than 50 of these." And 16 pages later, when I finished the list, I thought, "Yeah, 50 of those would have done the trick."

This book had its share of laugh-out-loud moments. To wit: "'You can have your picture taken and put on a box of Wheaties,' she says. That's insane, I say. I can't masturbate to a picture of myself" (67). "I do not remember the name of the young actor who played the autistic child. But I do remember that between takes he was either very high, or very autistic. Anyway, we partied" (83). "Negotiation requires compromise. Each party must gain something, and each must give something up. Before you begin your negotiation, privately consider what you are willing to give away. Now gather all of that material together and put it in a sack. Hide the sack in a secure location, such as a cave that is laced with explosives that you can detonate by remote control. Take the remote control in with you to the negotiation. As any experienced negotiator knows, in order to succeed, you must be willing to walk away from the deal at any moment, and then blow up the cave" (127). "I am now required to devote my creative life solely to writing about my daughter--how brilliant and beautiful she is, and how her naive wisdom and amusing antics have changed the way I look at life. Everyone, I am sure, will find this fascinating" (224). So when I say "its share of," evidently I really mean "only four." But still, I actually laughed out loud for these, and four in one book is a mark usually only approached by P.G. Wodehouse.

Rating: 6 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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