Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Minor Literary Glitterati John Hodgman

We were ten minutes late for the 7pm appearance of John Hodgman at the Barnes and Noble on Union Square. Luckily, John Hodgman was also late. At first, I was happy we didn't miss anything, but then I started to wonder how many Karma points I had redeemed in the transaction. This bothered me until I found two shiny pennies on the street on the way home and I knew I was square with the gods.

To keep the mostly pasty-white and bespeckled geekmo crowd occupied until his tardy arrival, Hodgman had commissioned an opening act, a folk singer named Jonathan Coulton.

Later, we learned that Jonathan had been born feral and raised by woodland creatures in Connecticut, but outwardly he exhibited few traces of his seedy past. Except his buckskin shirt and Davy Crockett hat. Initially, I enjoyed Coulton's songster antics with an air of flighty inattention, but when he recited all the U.S. presidents in precise historical order, I realized the act was a potential Learning Experience.

John Hodgman is a minor television celebrity: the PC guy on the Mac ads. He started out as a freelance writer, which is largely how he wound up reading from his latest book at the Barnes and Noble. His almanack, The Areas of My Expertise boasts an information-packed ensemble of complete world knowledge arranged in useful order. Hodgman claims to have performed some research in preparation of the book, but it was scant, haphazard and largely accidental. Most of it, he made up himself.

In the TV ads, Hodgman comes off as a self-effacing moonfaced nerdnick. In person, he's more of a moonfaced smacktalker. Mainly it was a Woody Allen sort of funny affair, but every so often I kind of wanted to beat him up. Undertones of meanie sharp-tongued pantywaist color me slightly violent, apparently. I mean, it's a fine line between comically conceited and just conceited.

Tom and I were too cheap to buy the hardcover and too lazy to stand in the book signing line. We picked up Hodgman's first book, now available in paperback. Then I pitstopped into Gap Body because I needed to buy underwear, or so called "gatkas" when you are speaking with your litvisch bubby.
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