Watered Down Knowledge, The Slim-Fast Book Diet: What a Concept!

For the last 12 years, the wax has accumulated in my ears, preventing me from comprehending any book more than 200 pages. Brain cells have been lost thanks to an unfortunate experience with hallucinogenics that occurred during my midlife crisis. And I no longer have any patience for a reading experience that lasts longer than 45 minutes. Since the Times is so gutless when it comes to printing four letter words (yet strangely fixated on sodomy and other carnal activities of the genteel), and since it harbors an illusion that it is a family newspaper, I’ll merely connote a small nugget, if you will, published by Harry G. Frankfurt. It shines like the bottom of a clean unsoiled toilet for readers too indolent and too inveterate to read a book of normal length. It represents, in two words, the future.

Two books stare at me at my bookshelf. One is so large that I cower behind my four-poster bed, hoping that the episodes of Lost I TiVoed will get me through this cold and lonely night. The book is thick and large. And I haven’t seen anything like it in my life. Never mind that its author, N.A.M. Rodger, spent several years of his life becoming an authoritative expert on naval history or that the book in question contains about a hundred pages of maps and other valuable resources to aid and abet the truly obsessed nautical man. For I am neither a nautical man nor an intellectual. However, I do manage to sound pompous and authoritative enough to maintain my regular gig at the Times. Bombast and bluster should count for something, no?

Consider the skim book, which resembles a Slim Jim in makeup and nutritional value, the one that is short enough to give you the basic information yet without scholarship or that pivotal additional context. These things are lovely, no? You can read it one in a few hours, go to a cocktail party, and talk as if you’re an expert on Waterloo! These fantastically thin books, influenced by the abridged grandeur of Cliff and SparkNotes, are devoid of footnotes and are, for the most part, useless in an academic environment. But doesn’t it feel good, dear reader, to allow such colossal hubris to go to your head and to think that being knowledgable means barely retaining the basics?

I call for a new age of thin books, whereby people learn less and scholarship is spruned rather than stomached! Bring me 50 page volumes that give me everything I need to know about the rise and fall of Genghis Khan! Better yet, why not one-page volumes contained in an expensive spine? I offer the ideal biography of Napoleon:

TITLE PAGE: Napoleon: A Biography
CHAPTER ONE: “Napoleon was short. THE END.”

Is this not the most ideal reading experience one can have? Does not the salient fact that Napoleon was a short man stick out? Publishers and authors alike can rest easy that they are saving the marketplace! Prices for books will go down. Authors will be able to publish 300 books a year. And those pivotal sound bytes of knowledge will soar!

I can imagine the book clubs discussing the whole of a book contained within one sentence. The conversations will last no more than five minutes, discussing Napoleon’s short stature, and then everyone can, at long last, get blitzed on the merlot. What a joyous epoch of knowledge lies ahead of us!

So bring on this new age of slim books. Dismantle the history graduate programs and the other pedantic forms of education that rarely pay off. The time has come, at long last, to put the Robert Caros and the William T. Vollmanns out of work and let the silent vox populi scream out their malformed thoughts from the highest summit.


  1. “There are a lot of these junior-sized books out there at the moment.”

    Yeah, and most of them suck. Even Grimes’s big posterboy Frankfurt admits that On Bullshit is, well, bullshit. It was a 20-year-old academic paper that was gathering dust until Harvard Press decided to screw with the margins on it.

    What’s next? Is Grimes going to extol the widsom given to college grads by Maria Shriver?

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