Thursday, August 5, 2010

Books for people who like weird dares

There was an interesting column by Matthew Honan in Wired magazine a couple days ago about "stunt" books. These are the kinds of books wherein the author sets him or herself some usually preposterous goal like "I'm going to read the whole encyclopedia/OED/Bible in one sitting", and then writes about the wacky results. They're the literary cousins of stunt documentaries like Super Size Me. I think the phenomenon is quite a bit older than Honan supposes--he reckons it to be very recent--but agree that these kinds of books, while offering an immediate thrill of interest, are ultimately kind of irritating, in the way that a lot of the halfhearted spawn of Cod are--those books that look at history through the microscope of [x mundane thing, whether it's or bay leaf or plywood or women's undergarments]. Although all of the above are no more or less irritating than a lot of other nonfiction books that are basically little more than grotesquely inflated magazine articles. These genres are not inherently tainted; the only thing is that their success is diluted by authors hitching their wagons to successful trends in hopes of a nice fat advance. I guess the message is: don't write lazy books.

Wired: "One Man's Journey into Stunt Books", by Matthew Honan

[Image from Wikimedia Commons, by User: Rumata. I also really kinda wanted to use this ridiculous one, but it was too blurry.]

No comments: