Review: That Is All

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That Is All
by John Hodgman

★★★★☆

2011 • 368 pages • Dutton

Eddie Izzard is one of my favorite comedians. And when I was a kid, he was my favorite comedian. (He may have been the only comedian whose comedy albums I listened to as a kid, but variation and wider context were of little concern to my anxious, angry child self.) His lack of any up-to-the-minute topical references that would have flown over my sheltered head certainly helped, but it’s his gleeful relations of history that have always stuck with me. Well, that and “If I die on the floor, can I get up in these heels? NO!” Something about learning something new about history and immediately poking holes in it appealed me. As a teenager, I even put together a delighted retelling of Rasputin’s death in unwitting tribute, although I’ve phased it out ever since I discovered Boney M.’s magnificent “Rasputin.”

John Hodgman appeals to me for a similar reason; his humor, especially the humor on display in his trilogy of complete world knowledge, stems from both delight in the bizarre world around us and the puncturing of authority, although the authority, in this case, is his, to be punctured by his tremendously surreal but precise imagination. In high school, I used to go to the gym three times a week and work out listening to The Areas of my Expertise on audiobook, over and over and over. To this day, the scent of a public gym mat conjures memories of a copious list of hobo names and Jonathan Coulton’s improvised theme songs for all fifty-one states. (The fifty-first is the roaming state of Ar, of course.)

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Review: I Want My MTV

I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum

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I never watched MTV as a kid. When I aged into MTV’s demographic at the tender age of twelve, its content sufficiently alarmed my parents enough to lock the channel on our television. This phased me not one whit—I turned to VH1 and started mainlining I Love the 80s and its two sequels, ensuring that I would remain contemporary pop culture proof until late high school. But, as I continue my investigation into modern music, MTV’s impact both fascinated and baffled me, as the zeitgeist MTV of the eighties couldn’t be more different than the MTV I remembered brief flashes of when the lock failed. So when I Want My MTV was mentioned on the A. V. Club, I knew it was time to get a proper handle on the network and its legacy.

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Review: Imaginary Girls

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls came to my attention when it was reviewed by Becky at Active Voice. I’m not sure if it was the cover or Ruby’s charisma, but it ended up on my list. (I have to admit, young adult covers are almost uniformly gorgeous; I don’t know if it’s because publishers think teenagers will flee at the sight of an ugly book or narrow margins, but I do wish they’d take such care with adult fiction from time to time. It only seems fair.) As I rounded out March, it seemed the least threatening out of the intimidating pile of library books I had accumulated, and I picked it up.

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