STEWART, JON, et al. Earth (the Book). New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-446-57922-3. Pp. 244. $27.99.
Rare is the book that claims to have been written by a television show. In this case, the television show comprises of a group of writers cum editors, and a separate but equal group of twelve just plain old "writers". I think the main difference is that only the former are getting paid and only the latter are going to have to bother putting this work on their new résumés.
Jon Stewart has become a pretty important guy over the past few presidential elections, and maybe the culmination of his influence occurred last week at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear with Stephen Colbert. Like the rest of my demographic, I wanted to go, but couldn't afford to. Still, Stewart is a fantastic person, even if he is not Stephen Colbert, and I was excited and actually willing to part with a twenty to buy his new book, the second he (and "others") have produced in the format of a faux textbook. Right of the bat I should say it was not that much fun to read, much like a real text book.
"Earth (the Book)" was written for the supposed aliens who will supposedly arrive on our planet just after we supposedly technologize ourselves into supposed extinction. It's kind of a cute gimmick, which invites several anal-probe jokes within the first few pages, but it gets old, and fast. Behind this premise is the intention of informing and instructing the (human) readers on the follies of mankind, but the piece is, overall, rife with inconsistencies and misinformation. Fortunately, the only people who will be reading this book cover to cover are Jon Stewart fans, and they basically all know what's what anyway. I still find it irksome that the two-page spread on Advertising laments that "We went from being exposed to one or two ads a day (1900) to 5,000 a day (2000)" while displaying no less than seventeen. Actually, the entire book is dotted with advertisements, rendering the reading experience not unlike watching the Daily Show, except it's not as funny, and there are more advertisements.
Part of the problem may be that this is the product of many minds (like the Daily Show, in fact), all trying to be witty, with some succeeding ("Dora [the Explorer] was a plucky little girl who taught children how to shout instructions at brown people in Spanish"), while most of the others fail. I blame the "writers" of the book for the incredibly lame "Places to See: The Manila Folders". In addition, the book is dotted with grammatical mistakes and spelling errors, leaving me to wonder how this kind of stuff could get past five editors.
Nevertheless, the book is crammed with detail and lots of pictures, which will provide a more engrossed reader with hours of silent chuckles, if not any outright guffaws. Part of the reason for this lack of hilarity might be the authors' compromising humor for inaccurate postulating, such as "This page was itself once part of a temperate forest". It was in fact once part of a temperate tree farm. Let's not get overly dramatic here. It also does not seem fair, or in any way upstanding to the Jon Stewart Code of Sanity, to tell the aliens that the Muslims will "fuck you up". Which this book does, leading me to believe that Jon Stewart may have had less to do with its production than I originally thought.
Coming up next week: Steg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".