The Areas of My Expertise The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
Publisher: Dutton
Year: 2005
Pages: 240

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.

§959 · January 27, 2006 · Tags: ·

2 Comments to “The Areas of My Expertise”

  1. I disagree says:

    I’m sorry, but are you serious?
    The book was scatterbrained?
    In comparison to, for example, an almanac?

    Hodgman declares the book a perversion of the Almanac Idiom, first and foremost in that NONE OF THE FACTS ARE REAL.

    Therefore, whereas an almanac may seem ORDERLY, the areas of my expertise may appear DISORDERLY. This I believe, contributes to it’s humor.

    Were you expecting an orderly book? Once which presented “random” and “ridiculous” humor in a manner exactly like that which you have come to know in “the thwacker”?
    Perhaps this is the reason you found Hodgman’s book so unfunny.

    It is funny precisely for the reasons you call it unfunny. I find it hard to believe that you could be so pigheaded.

  2. Ben says:

    What are you, his wife?

    Look, I understand that the point of the book was to be random and completely unlike the reference books that it satirizes. But, satire doesn’t have to be incoherent: there was little in the way of expositional flow (unless you count the occasional joke referencing a previous chapter).

    This sort of thing needs a delivery that Hodgman was unsuccessful in transmitting this time around.

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