Tuesday, February 07, 2006

mark kurlansky is a jerkface.

The current trend in non-fiction seems to be histories of one broad subject: Ice, Hunger, The Pencil, Collapse, Water, Peace, Clay, Rubble, these are all completely seperate books, most of which have come out in the last six months.
At first I thought this was just odd, but, as more and more came out, I've grown more and more pissed off that all these people think they can cover any kind of history of these subjects in 300 pages. Now, I will say that I haven't read any of these. I've checked out a little of Collapse and it seems really good, but it's also the only one where the size of the book fits the subject. So I will say that possibly some of these books might do a good job with the subject they tackle, you never know, it's possible.
But the trend itself just reminds me of the foolishness of humans, thinking we can know more than we can, attempting to rationally understand everything. I want to say history will prove us meek and small, but that's sort of undermining my own existance, so I won't.
It's like all these authors went to the same workshop, where the leader of the workshop was like "try to write a whole book on one really large, really general topic." I realized the other day that, if there was such a workshop, it was probably lead by Mark Kurlansky. Kurlansky is the author of such popular books as Salt, Cod, and 1968. Now, again, I've never read these books, and from what I hear, he's a good writer, but I'm not a fan, simply because he seems to be the one who popularized this pseudo-genre and proved a successful career could be made out of such attempts at omnipotence.
I wonder if this will just continue until every last thing has a whole book about it. Is everybody just running out of ideas? Are writers just like, "I need a new book, but what shall it be about? I have no ideas. What's something I like...Oh, ribbons! Ribbons: The Social and Cultural History, this'll be great!"
The future doesn't look bright. Or, at least it looks really boring.


Blogger ariel said...

somehow i feel there's injustice in this post - that you haven't read any of the books you judge.
(a little tear)

8:07 PM  
Blogger cole said...

this post is awesome

11:01 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

let me add Prayer, Barbed Wire, Spice, Water, Tea, Coal, and Rats to this list. The first three came out in the last year, the rest are within the last five years. Some look kind of good, others, well... For some reason, I thought Wanderlust: The History of Walking looked kind of interesting.

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The future doesn't look bright. Or, at least it looks really boring."

Don't be so negative.

That's my job.

- Z

2:44 PM  
Blogger ariel said...

(( i just want to say for the record that i do not actually hate josh like my posts on this website habitually alude. i also think this post is awesome and interesting. ... joshua is a a cute-y love button and is smart and has good ideas and i appriciate them. case closed. ))

10:39 PM  

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