Stateside: America (The Book)
America (The Book)
Christmas brings out the misanthrowup in me: I swear if I see one more news item about people Doing Selfless Deeds, my rainbow yawn will stretch from here to eternity in both possible places I might spend such a timespan in. So it was with great delight that, to the tune of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" playing on the bells of my neighbouring church this brass-ball-loosening Christmas morn, I started reading America (The Book).
Okay, okay. Really, I opened it last night because I just couldn't wait, and woke up this morning with sore ribs from laughing so much, and a keen desire to read more. When you think "American television humour", satire is not something that immediately leaps to mind, but The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which plays on cable channel Comedy Central, is an exception. It's like that weekly puppet show the Brits consoled themselves with when Thatcher was in power, only without the puppets. And not weekly.
Not that I watch it. I'd rather read The Book, where its essence is distilled into a text that should be mandatory in high schools across these united states of America. Hey, school districts! The publishers have made it easy for you by including discussion questions and classroom activities, along with many bright and attractive tables, pie charts, sidebars, and footnotes.
The inside front cover is pre-stamped with the obligatory "This book is the property of:" rectangle with its lines of "issued to" to be filled in by the students, who should take special note of the fine print: "We are fully aware that Dick Hertz, I.P. Freely and Heywood Jablome are not real people, so please exclude them."
From the foreword by Thomas Jefferson (who admits he's dead) to the review on the back cover by Abraham Lincoln (ditto, for all you geniuses out there), America (The Book) is jam packed with little-known facts. I even learned something about my own home sod in the chapter entitled The Rest of the World: International House of Horrors.
"Australia's Canada" is described as "pretty much the same as Australia, except it has Maoris instead of Aborigines and they shot Lord of the Rings there." New Zealand also "boasts a remarkable 50 sheep for every Orc," and "once every 50 years the North and South Island ram each other in a primitive battle for supremacy." Ah well, I guess that's better than being Australia's Cuba. And they might have used an "i" instead of an "a".
Seriously, folks, this is not only one funny book but if you're willing to swallow your pride and look up the things where you're not sure if they're joking or not, you'll learn that most often they are not, and that truth is a whole lot stranger (and sadder) than comedy. Which is what satire is, right?