Benny's Book List: The Know it All

August 24, 2006

By the time you see this post, I might have updated my little reading list to the side. Or then again, I might not have. This summer has featured really bad television along with Mrs. theskinnyonbenny being out of town or at work dinners more often than I'm used to. The result is that I've been reading books like Burgess Meredith in that old Twilight Zone episode.

Although I've been pretty happy with most of my choices, I'm compelled to pass along some praise for this book. I've been reading a little bit every day, and rarely does a day pass where I fail to laugh out loud, even when reading all by myself.

The jist of it is this: the author gives us a running narrative as he reads the Encyclopaedia Britannica all the way through from A to Z. As he reads, he comments on entries. Sometimes, he highlights an odd fact that was learned in the Encyclopedia, but other times, he relates real-life stories that touch only tangentially on the coincident Encyclopedia text. Either way, it's a riot.

Last night, I was reading in the P's. In the midst of his comments for Plato, he dismisses some notion of Plato's that there is a separate universe where everything exists in its "ideal" state. After a couple of examples of why this is "hogwash" (good word there), he uses the ideal of personal beauty as an example.

And what of beauty? Anyone who says that it's eternal needs to take a look at the stone cutting they show in the Britannica representing Helen of Troy, the great beauty of her day. She looked like a drag queen in need of a nose job. Today, that Helen of Troy wouldn't make it past a local Miss ZBroccoli pageant, much less Miss Universe. She wouldn't launch a dinghy today.

I'm a little bit disappointed in one thing. I hit an entry one day recently where he used the phrase "va-va-voom." You know -- the goofy phrase that old men used to say when they would see a good looking woman. I had just mentioned that I was going to start trying to bring back "va-va-voom" and lo and behold, here it is in a popular book. Now I will get none of the credit when this term comes back as a full blown popular expression.

I also just realized that A. J. Jacobs is the same writer who did The Two Kings. This was a fifteen minute illustrated booklet which hillariously and blasphemously compared Jesus and Elvis. For example, I remember a page that was something like,

"Jesus healed the sick..."

"...Elvis provided prescription drugs to his friends and family."

That book was also good stuff.

There are a couple of things that endear me to the quest of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. First, my father is also an encyclopedia reader. As a kid, he read the World Book -- admittedly much more of a low-brow Encyclopedia -- from A to Z.

When I was a kid, we had that same stack of work out and outdated World Books. Want to know about space exploration? Too bad. Hadn't happened yet when these books were published. Vietnam War? Don't make me laugh. Korea might have even been a single country in this edition of World Book.

The second thing that endears me to this is my own quest -- first mentioned well over a year ago -- to listen to every song on my IPOD alphabetically by title.

I like listening to the music that I'm in the mood to hear. I say this in order to make an excuse for this: I'm only into the D's. It appears that I have two or three more years to go on this project.

I should explain this mission in more detail in a future post, but for now, I'll just pass along a lyric that I've been fond of for many years. Beck's "Debra" came up on the IPOD as I sat outside and read last night. I've always liked this song a lot, and it's been a long time since my own twirling through the playlists brought it up.

I wanna get with you Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa girl ...and your sister I think her name's Debra

I've never "gotten with" a girl and her sister, but I suspect that it would be avisable to firm up one's knowledge of both girls' name before asking for the tryst.