One man’s attempt to provide a short answer to a tall question.
Like the best words in the English language, “curiosity” can mean several different things. Most often, we use it to denote a certain eagerness for information: What is Simmons’ booklet really about? Meanwhile, there’s also an implication of novelty, strangeness even: How can Simmons possibly explain himself in a mere 72 pages? Finally, curiosity can be just another word for prying. (After all, remember what happened to that cat?) Apropos, more than a few sections come off as unduly inquisitive. Writing in the first person, Simmons’ initial response to his title query is to overshare. As the author, too, of a self-help book (Finding Your Inner Will, 2010) perhaps that’s to be expected. His intentions seem pure, though, and when Simmons decides later to turn his gaze outward—looking at how others view curiosity—the book becomes a slightly better, more universal read. As a writer, Simmons is at his best when he’s explaining the ideas and research of others. When contrasting some of the sources he cites (e.g. various arcane inventors, Dr. Michio Kaku, the Max Planck Institute), he uses a clean, no-nonsense prose that truly invites the reader into the discussion. Too bad that’s not a good thing. In fact, the extra-curious out there will need to keep a pen and pad handy; “What does it mean to be curious?” is hardly the only line of inquiry Simmons pursues. Ultimately, the author poses more questions than his word count can answer. Socrates he’s not. And unlike the Rey couple’s brown monkey, it seems Simmons’ curiosity is but a red herring.
A short and simple but, alas, way too rhetorical look at our collective curiosity.