Saturday, July 05, 2008

Being a Know-it-all

I've always taken a real liking to those that consider themselves a jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-none. They make playing Trivia Pursuit a real challenge, and I love a good game of TP.

I was given a book to read recently by A. J. Jacobs called The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. Jacobs decides that he's not smart enough. As a child he considered himself to be the smartest kid in the world. Even through college he considered himself smart. He found his intelligence slipping after working at the magazines Entertainment Weekly and Esquire. To get smart again, Jacobs decides to take on a quest his father never completed, reading the entire encyclopedia. Not just any encyclopedia, but the leather-bound 15th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The book is divided into 24 chapters (XYZ is one chapter). He makes comments on many entries while interweaving stories about his life. His commentary can be funny, sarcastic and serious. Some of the best parts of the book are about him and his wife trying to have a child.
In this excerpt, Jacobs has joined Mensa because he scored a 1250 on his SAT many years ago. He's telling everyone he can that he's now in Mensa. This segment comes from the Dionysus section of the book.
This is huge news: A. J. Jacobs, Mensa member. I
start dropping that fact at every opportunity. At work, when Sarah, the
copy editor, questions the overuse of capital letters in a story, I say, "Well,
you know, I am a Mensa member. At home, I trot it out during
arguments with Julie, like the time we got in a squabble over the Thai food
delivery. I'm on the phone with the restaurant and I've forgotten what she
wants, even though she's told me three times.
"Coconut Shrimp," she repeats. Then sticks
out her tongue and rolls her eyes making the universal sign for "nitwit."
"That was not constructive," I say, after clicking
off the phone.
"What are you? A retard?" she asks.
"Uh, how many retards are members of Mensa?"
"Just One," she says.
The Know-It-All book is nice cotton-candy reading. It's perfect for the toilet or when you are tired of reading 2008 election position papers. I really like the book. In fact, I find myself laughing outloud at the book pretty often. A. J. Jacobs wrote a book after this one called The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.
You can read Adam regularly at The Stone Report.


Anonymous said...

I thought this was written by RC, you know, he thinks HE is the smartest person on the earth!

RC said...

NO...not the smartest...the funniest!

Who was that guy that was on Jeoperdy forever...Ken Jennings??? He's pretty smart.

Dad said...

It is always slightly disconcerting to find out what one reads on the toilet.

Not that it matters what he reads. I suppose it just forces the mental picture.

general125 said...

I could take that photo to confirm the image in your head, but this is a family blog.