John Hodgman knows his stuff. In fact, the humorist and Daily Show regular knows pretty much all the stuff there is to know, and in That Is All—his third and final volume of Complete World Knowledge—he shares everything, from the terror of the apocalypse to the previously unknown history of the Triscuit.
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It’s amazing reading, not leastwise because Hodgman made it all up from whole cloth. Hodgman graciously took a few moments away from living the life of a “deranged millionaire” to explain to us why we’re all doomed, and what it was like to kiss Grace Jones.
I’m very sorry, but I’m not yet finished with your book.
You know what? Me neither. I don’t know when I’m going to be done.
That Is All resists easy summation. How would you sell this funny and informative book to someone who doesn’t know who you are?
Simply say, “This book contains all the information that you need to know before the coming global superpocalypse known as Ragnarok, plus a lot of sports trivia.” That basically covers everybody, don’t you think? That should be enough. I don’t want to live in a world where that’s not enough. Luckily, I don’t have to for much longer, because if the signs and portents are correct, human civilization as we know it will end soon after the paperback edition of my book comes out.
The book came about in large part because I promised to write it when I wrote my first book, The Areas of My Expertise. That became surprisingly successful for a book about cyborgs and hoboes and weird fake facts, and I really wanted to write more, so I said that I would write two more. The second would be called More Information Than You Require, and let’s face it, I did it. I wrote that book.
And from the beginning the third would be called That Is All, because that’s how I’ve been signing my e-mails for 15 years, ever since there was e-mail. Ever since I invented e-mail. And so I thought that would be a good name for the third book in the series…but then I forgot my promise, because I accidentally became a famous minor television personality, and things were so exciting and glamorous for me that I forgot I was going to write this new book. I actually forgot how to write and how to read, because why bother? When you’re doing two-second cameo appearances in movies, let’s face it—why bother reading?
But then I was reminded that all things must come to an end, largely by the awful doom-saying portents of the Mayan Long-Count calendar ending 2012, and movies like 2012. And also by frequent, increasingly frustrated e-mails from my publishing company, reminding me that I contractually agreed to write a third book to end the series. And especially by the catastrophic natural phenomenon of me turning 40. I realized that the world is ending; I have to write my third book.
Really, that was the subject matter that I needed to engage with: the fact the Mayans predicted that the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012, in flame and fire, destroying all but sparing John Cusack for some reason. Even if hypothetically that were not true, all things we love conclude. I’m not going to say “end” or “die,” although those things are true also, but things come to a conclusion—and ideally we move on to new things. So it seems appropriate to explore this, the beginning of what would be for normal people the second half of one’s life but I think for me will be the last fifth of my life, by contemplating conclusions in the context of the coming global superpocalypse known as Ragnarok, while exploring the two areas of expertise that I had been too intimidated or repulsed by to really explore, and that is the beverage known as wine and the curse upon our land known as sports. Because who doesn’t love sports?
I don’t. I never watch sports.
I don’t watch them either. I have nothing against sports, I really don’t. Sometimes I watch sports and they’re amazing. Athletes are incredible, I mean, they’re incredible artists in a sense. In the sense that an artist is an incredible artist, in that what they do requires enormous innate skill honed by years of discipline, practice and an achievement that is so far beyond what most people are capable of that it is astonishing to see. I just resent the cultural supposition that I must automatically like sports and that I should be able to talk about it at any moment. It’s not my thing.
And you have to discuss them in a special vernacular.
Well, that’s the thing. There are so many sports metaphors. Sports has completely infected our lives and our language. So, you know, “jumping the gun.” I think that came from the sport of Gun Jumping. “Watching from the sidelines”—something I have both figuratively and literally done my entire asthmatic life. “Getting to third base”—right? That derives from the old-time baseball tradition of baseball players fondling each other when they reached third base.
Speaking of third base, what kind of kisser is Grace Jones?
Let me make this perfectly clear if it was not in the book. I did not kiss Grace Jones on the lips. I kissed Grace Jones in greeting—cheek, cheek, double cheek. She’s not an air kisser. There would have been actual contact were she not been wearing an enormous hat and mysterious black veil over her face. So I think it might be more accurate—and perhaps I will correct this in future editions—instead of saying I kissed Grace Jones in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont, for me to say I rubbed the face veil of Grace Jones with my cheek.
Nevertheless, you’re living the life, my friend.
Geoff, we all are. I mean, it takes a narcissist to conflate turning 40 years old with the complete collapse of civilization and the end of humankind as we know it. Luckily, I’m the narcissist to do it. But as with every absurd exaggeration in my books, I wish only to highlight just how absurd and strange our own individual lives are—how narrative and weird the plots of our lives turn out to be, and how unexpected the turns we take can be even if we are not on television. So, yes, I am living the life, but it is no weirder than yours.
I sincerely hope so.
Well, it’s about to get really weird because I hired a bunch of clowns to hang around your apartment for the rest of the day, and I’ve also filled your bathtub with beetles. If you have a good time, then please let readers know that John Hodgman’s Make Your Life Surreal package is available to anyone. I can make your life as strange as mine for a very reasonable price…which is, in fact, equal to the cost of my book.