Many moons ago (1996, actually), I was a big fan of The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams’ first foray into non-comic books1. I was also a fan of the follow-up, The Dilbert Future, though I found his pontificating at the very end to be rather inane.
Jump forward to 2007: Adams has a few more written books of decreasing quality, and now has a regular blog with a fair following. Enter Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!, which may seem like another Dilbert Principle sequel, but which is actually little more than a compilation of Adams’ blog entries. They are short, sometimes a couple of pages; others are longer and more fleshed out. It’s the same varying quality one would expect from a casual blog.
Adams begins his book by informing his readers that though he fails at things quite often, statistically speaking, he often succeeds in matters where he has had no previous experience (i.e. cartooning). His message is clearly “I’m hot shit, and that’s why you just paid $24.95 for a book you could have read on the internet for free.” Sort of. Adams has a particular way of being self-deprecating so that when he does pontificate and sounds like an idiot, he can deflect criticism by pointing to his disclaimer of “It’s just ‘philosotainment'” and act as though his point was to get you riled all along. It’s the same sort of nonchalance that led to the flame wars between Adams and P.Z. Myers.
Adams isn’t a bad writer, but there are certain things about his writing that don’t sit well with me, as though he’s trying for tropes and somehow manages to get them just a little bit wrong. Look at the title, for instance…. “monkey brain”? It’s neither a common epithet, nor is it a particularly fierce or funny one. I recall a joke from one of his earlier books where he said that an “ombudsman” involved meditation and beer (“Ommmm” being a chant and “Bud” being a kind of beer, if you don’t get it). It’s that sort of awkward attempt at humor that spoil the book for me in part. The other part that spoils it is the Twitter-calibre entries—why bother? Why not just write a freaking comic?
- Admittedly, the book contain plenty of illustrative comic strips, but that is neither here nor there.[↩]