You may recall that I was less than impressed with John Hodgman’s previous book, The Areas of My Expertise. At the time, at least in comparison to his appearances on The Daily Show, which were concise and humorous, I found his writing to be a little too unfocused, despite its stated aim as a compendium of entirely fictional (and apparently random) knowledge. This opinion got me flak from what appeared to be a vocal supporter, but I persist in my assertion that the book was subpar.
Unfortunately, I must issue a substantially similar opinion this time around. More Information Than You Require is in every sense of the word a continuation of The Areas of My Expertise—even going so far as to number its pages starting with the last page of its successor.
Here, I think, is my issue with Hodgman’s books: almost always, when I laugh, it’s because of the sheer randomness of the text. Otherwise, I don’t see what Hodgman’s trying to accomplish: I don’t feel as though the book is satire, because he’s not really pointing out any kind of absurdity in the things he talks about. Neither is it parody, except in a very general sense as it pertains to reference books. So what is Hodgman doing? The most impressive and clever thing he accomplish is constant self-reference, including reference to his previous book. If ever someone cultivated a thriving ecosystem of in-jokes and footnotes, it’s Hodgman1, but the end result is ultimately fulsome: the jokes of pomposity and grandiloquence is only funny for a limited time and in a limited scope, after which it becomes a rather tedious exercise in the occasional droll witticism. This sequel lacks even the novelty of Hodgman’s first compendium, since it’s really nothing more than another comparable slice of the same shtick.
If you liked Areas of My Expertise, you will almost assuredly enjoy More Information Than You Require; if you didn’t, the opposite holds true. If you are new to John Hodgman, I can’t personally recommend his books, but there’s certaintly no accounting for taste. If the two, I think Areas of My Expertise is the more novel, so you may want to start with that one.
- Also possibly David Foster Wallace[↩]