Saturday, September 10, 2016

That Is All by John Hodgman

That Is All was the third of Hodgman's books of fake nonfiction and odd apocalypticism; organized by the days of the year 2012, in which all of the various bizarre apocalypses he could think of would happen, some simultaneously and some in sequence. I intended to read it about a page a day as that year went on, because it seemed the thing to do.

I think I kept that up through around April or May, and then fell further and further behind. The book stayed on the corner of my desk at home, ostensibly there to pick up and read every day, but in practice it just sat. I read chunks of it here and there over the next four years, and finally finished it more than a thousand days after the end of the world it described.

And, as far as I can tell, Hodgman hasn't published any books since -- and that big Apple TV ad campaign that made him (as he put it) a "famous minor television personality" also ended some time ago. Perhaps he's in the Hughes-esque deranged hermit phase of his career; I wouldn't put it past him. (Either to pretend to do it, or actually to become a hermit.)

That Is All is not really a book conducive to review. At the top of each page is an almanac-style entry, "Today in RAGNAROK," detailing that day's apocalyptic events. The rest of the book is the usual Hodgmanic hodge-podge, with lists of apocalypse beasts, descriptions of sports and other wonders of our modern world, and lots of lots of explanations of this particular complicatedly Lovecraftian vision of the end of the world. And all is in THAT HODGMANIC PROSE, with phrases picked out in caps.

And lots of one-sentence paragraphs.

Some of which actually are sentences, not merely phrases.

Not all of them.

This was a very carefully constructed joke for a very particular moment in history -- remember the end of the Mayan calendar? (Yes, you've already forgotten, since it was deeply stupid. Hodgman knew that then, and maybe that's why he used it.) Those jokes are never as funny later, obviously. That Is All is a book that will age very badly -- I would love to see what some smartish twentysomething will make of it in about 2112 -- but it is aging badly in quirky and bizarre ways, and it couldn't be any other way.

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