An acquaintance of mine worked on the production of a recently published book by John Hodgman entitled That Is All and was excited to recommend it heartily. My taste in books tends to be pretty well in sync with hers, and I took her recommendation to heart. I’m about a sixth of the way through and am not feeling great about the purchase.
The problem probably lies less with the book than with my expectations. Knowing the sort of humor that Hodgman has written in the past for The Daily Show, I suppose I should have expected something like the silly, meandering book at hand. Hodgman has written another book or two that I presume are in the same vein as this one, and had I done any research to learn what they were like, I would have been prepared for That Is All.
The strange thing is that before beginning this book, I wouldn’t really have counted myself a very serious person. I teach my kids fart jokes and enjoy low-brow and high-brow humor alike. I like cornball, and I like silly. And Hodgman’s book is nothing if not silly. My problem with the book lies not in the humor — for it is very funny — but with the investment it requires. It reads like a blog, but it’s packaged as a book. I like blogs. I earn my livelihood thanks to blogs. I would eagerly read a Hodgman blog written in the style of this book. But because it’s a book of several hundred pages, I feel pressure to read it in book-like chunks, and every time I go to it, I feel like I’m wasting time. There are more important, more serious things I could be reading, things that would nourish and instruct me rather than diverting me in the way an occasional blog post coming to me via feed reader would do. Who knew I was such a curmudgeon?
Hodgman is a smart, funny guy, and he’s assembled a book full of smart, funny things. It’s just not the sort of content I’m generally interested in putting much time into. I’ll finish it bits and pieces and will enjoy it, but not without something like guilt while doing so.