I’d been waiting for this book for a long time. I saw Hodgman on The Daily Show last year, promoting it, and he’s been back several times since as a sort of guest correspondent. His TV schtick, anyway, is funny, so when this book finally came in at the library, I was thrilled, even stopping The Shroud of the Thwacker to read it. Boy, was I disappointed.
The Areas of My Expertise is a highly satirical work purporting to be a complete encyclopedia of world knowledge, and written in a starched-collar style completely approach for its humour. However, I found the book to be so random, so scatterbrained, that much of its humour was lost. Hodgman begins each chapter with a chart of lycanthropy timetables. He includes large tables of squirrel types, a list of 700 hobo names (he has a special love for hobo history and conspiracy theories, often at the same time). Having read about half of Chris Elliot’s The Shroud of the Thwacker at this point, I was used to ridiculous, random humour, but this one really took the cake. It, I believe, failed its mission as a funny book and came off instead as a curious little tome of completely unrelated (and also unfunny) pamphlets.
It’s a pity, too, because I know that John Hodgman is funny, but either it doesn’t translate well into the written medium, or his just didn’t have a good book in him to write this time around. Either way, I would suggest avoiding this book and picking up better high-brow humour instead, like a McSweeney’s subscription, which is both (apparently) random and funny.