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That Is All [Hardcover]

John Hodgman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011

John Hodgman-bestselling author, The Daily Show's "Resident Expert", minor television celebrity, and deranged millionaire-brings us the third and final installment in his trilogy of Complete World Knowledge.

In 2005, Dutton published The Areas of My Expertise, a handy little book of Complete World Knowledge, marked by the distinction that all of the fascinating trivia and amazing true facts were completely made up by its author, John Hodgman. At the time, Hodgman was merely a former literary agent and occasional scribbler of fake trivia. In short: a nobody.

But during an interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, an incredible transformation occurred. He became a famous minor television personality. You may ask: During his whirlwind tornado ride through the high ether of minor fame and outrageous fortune, did John Hodgman forget how to write books of fake trivia? The answer is: Yes. Briefly. But soon, he remembered!

And so he returned, crashing his Kansas farmhouse down upon the wicked witch of ignorance with More Information Than You Require, a New York Times bestseller containing even more mesmerizing and essential fake trivia, including seven hundred mole-man names (and their occupations).

And now, John Hodgman completes his vision with That Is All, the last book in a trilogy of Complete World Knowledge. Like its predecessors, That Is All compiles incredibly handy made-up facts into brief articles, overlong lists, and beguiling narratives on new and familiar themes. It picks up exactly where More Information left off-specifically, at page 596-and finally completes COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE, just in time for the return of Quetzalcoatl and the end of human history in 2012.


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About the Author

John Hodgman lives in New York City, where he curates and hosts “The Little Gray Book Lectures,” a monthly colloquium of readings, songs, and dubious scholarship. He is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and a frequent voice on public radio’s This American Life. Further fiction, nonfiction, and genres in between have appeared in The Paris Review, McSweeney’s, One-Story, and The Believer. He has performed at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, as well as on the great stages of Chicago, Philadelphia, and London’s Barbican.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars be ready to laugh forever Jan. 26 2013
By YA to Z
Format:Paperback
I didn't know much about John Hodgeman before picking up this book randomly in Chapters the other day, but after reading 'That Is All' I immediately ran out to get his other two. It was smart, crazy and absolutely hilarious. I actually had two different people come up to me on the subway and ask me what I was reading because I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud. This is exactly my humour, and may not be for everyone, especially uneducated idiots, but if you have a good sense of humour and understand satire then this book is perfect! I recommend starting with the first book 'The Areas of my Expertise' first though and then working your way to 'That Is All' instead of doing it backwards like me :)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant, absurd March 10 2012
Format:Hardcover
Hodgman's third and final book in his trilogy of fake trivia leaves you with a sense of amazement. At first, it seems insane that anyone would publish not just one but three books of fake trivia, and just as insane that anyone would write them. Even more surprising that all three would be really good - hilarious, poignant and the last is the best of all. The books don't just stand up to repeated reading, they demand it.

In THAT IS ALL, Hodgman pulls together the disparate, seemingly random threads from the first two into a more cohesive whole that is hilarious, touching and poignant. The comparison that leaps to mind, of all things, is Tolkien's "The Return of the King."

Like his fellow Daily Show alumnus Stephen Colbert, Hodgman has created an alter ego of himself, with the same name. The genius of his voice is that he by posing as a fake expert in everything, he has created a character who can be superior and erudite while disarming people who hate intellectuals - and they are legion. He makes fun of smarty-pants elitist braniacs by being one, and in this subversive way he can mock expertise while delivering it and making it palatable. No. Small. Trick. Especially if you are sustaining it over three books.

Hodgman's many gifts include not just quickness, a gift for the insane and absurd, but the insight that ephemera and trivia are important, at least as a metaphor for us, and for our lives - fleeting and small in the grand scheme of things and all the more precious and tender as a result.
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2.0 out of 5 stars More of the same Feb. 7 2012
Format:Hardcover
You can't blame Hodgman for trying to have his own original brand of humor, and there are some amusing bits in there, but after one has read The Areas of my Expertise and More Information than You Require, this new installment starts to wear a bit thin. Or perhaps i'm not quite insane enough to fully enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This really is all... Nov. 4 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
There is really no need for anything else to be said. Brilliant. I am a huge fan of the first 2 books, but That Is All is the strongest of the 3. The material is a little more centrally themed (a lot of ties back to Ragnarok run throughout) and it reads a little more straightforwardly than the other 2 books. It really feels like a culminating effort, like the first 2 books were subtley leading to this. I don't know if that was Hodgman's original intention or if That Is All has been retrofitted to feel like that, but it's amazing. Of course there is the typical brilliance you've come to expect from this series, but I found a much higher frequency of laugh-out-loud-isms in this one. The other 2 also had laugh out loud moments, but this one really feels like Hodgman took the best ideas from the previous books (not that he took material from the other books, but thematically, i.e. his tables and charts and the flow of the book are stronger than ever), processed it through that uniquely and wonderfully strange brain of his, and then really went in for the kill. Even the back of the book jacket itself made me laugh out loud, with the picture of Hodgman in character as the deranged millionaire with the ferret skeleton (check out this link if you haven't yet [...]) and the single quote from Neil Gaiman, just perfect. Fantastic stuff, and highly, highly recommended!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new classic of comedy Jan. 24 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Comedy is one of the hardest genres to get right. If the author stumbles in the least, the book becomes a painful experience. Fortunately, John Hodgman not only succeeds, he puts on a clinic on how to create a world.

"That Is All" is the third and final book in a trilogy by John Hodgman which details a bizarre and insanely detailed world, one where the Mall of America hides a secret underground compound, the Elder Gods are joined by a pantheon of hundreds of bizarre gods, and the Washington Monument launches into orbit leaving a raging inferno behind. After the first two books established this vivid and realized world, "That Is All" looks at the collapse and apocalyptic end of the world. It's hilarious, detailed and rich.

What I didn't expect was how moving the conclusion of this book would be. At the end of all this silly anarchy, Hodgman forges a fairly profound reflection that genuinely surprised me. We knew Hodgman was a brilliant comedian. "That Is All" shows us something more: he's a remarkably talented author who can write some shockingly effecting prose. This is one of the best works of comedy I've ever read, and one of the best books of 2011.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy the book, then buy the audiobook when it comes out, after which you should probably buy the book again Nov. 15 2011
By oatmealpie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you haven't read his previous works "Areas of My Expertise" and "More Information Than You Require", be prepared to be driven down into a dark, bottomless pool of non-fact: the final inclusions on his work of complete world knowledge and a day-by-day break down of the end times. Do not be frightened by sporadic subject matter and frequent callbacks to his previous books, you can pick up the series here as a new reader and follow the excellent story of a deranged millionaire staring into the spectacular, terrifying void.

If you're already familiar with John Hodgman's series then you may be like me: I was going to hold out until Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton got back into a studio to record the audiobook, but I couldn't hold out. Neither should you. There's too much good stuff here, and after multiple listens of hobo names and molemen it's easy to hear the author's voice and the troubadour's guitar as you read.

In addition, the predictions he makes start by December 2011. You won't be able to hear an audiobook version before Ragnarok does or doesn't begin, and reading Hodgman's advice for an apocalypse yet-to-be has a unique value that you'll only be able to cash in on for the next month or so. Additionally, trying to speed read to the end before the blood-red sea devours your home and family may also prove cumbersome.

Worth your money and time, as if you'll have either when the supercollapse begins and the Ancient and Unspeakable Ones return.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish there were more.......... Nov. 2 2011
By Marla Schwartz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sit in public laugh out loud smile to yourself funny literature. Still so insightful and meditative. The pleasure of reading this book is almost of the same quality as getting a cast off after months and finally being able to really scratch your wrist. I certainly can't recommend it to anyone because that is just too big of a gamble at this stage of the game, but John Hodgman is my kind of prophet. If the World doesn't end on 21, Dec.2012 I will give him another chance to call it for sure. That is All.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, quirky, and surprisingly thoughtful. Nov. 3 2011
By mrs. higgensworth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have no idea how to classify this book. I suppose you could make a case for it being a novel, but one so out of the box the form is barely recognizable. This is not the typical book of essays you'd expect from a humorist, which is so refreshing. However you want to catalog it the book is fascinating and deeply funny, and there is an intriguing turn of phrase or fantastic twist of reality in almost every line. If you've ever seen John Hodgman and thought he was funny, or you enjoy the comedy of the Daily Show, you will love this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indeed. That IS all. June 22 2012
By Chris Gladis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
FACT: There are four "Major Leagues" of sports: football, baseball, basketball, and falconry.

FACT: There are seven hundred of the Ancient and Unspeakable Ones who will return to Earth on June 3, 2012. They include The Century Toad, Oolong, the Pancake-Headed Rabbit King of Memes, and Cthulha, the Sensational She-Cthulhu.

FACT: Andrew Carnegie was able to create long, wood-paneled "wormhalls," which allowed him to travel great distances instantaneously. Some of these "Carnegie Halls" still exist today.

FACT: If you see Jonathan Franzen carrying a plain manila envelope, take it from him. Only then will you be allowed to board Oprah's space-ark, HARPO-1, and flee the doomed Earth.

WERE YOU AWARE OF IT?

Well, it's too late now.

In his first book, The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman attempted to give us the sum total of all world knowledge. He then went on to write a second book, More Information Than You Require, which built on his previous book due to the unstoppable way that things keep happening.

It was also a page-a-day calendar, if you didn't mind tearing pages out of your book. Which I did. Mind, that is.

With this book, he has finished his trilogy of complete world knowledge, which he can well and truly claim this time because, as we all know, the world will cease to be by the end of the year 2012. [1]

Yes, as it turns out the Mayans were right all along. The collapse of their empire was simply a prelude to the collapse of all things that will inevitably occur this year, and Hodgman has been generous enough to provide us with a final book to ease our suffering and to slake our thirst for knowledge right up to the very end.

Having become a Deranged Millionaire, Hodgman has found himself in a unique position. He has more opportunities than the rest of us, of course. More impressive people to meet, more exciting things to do, a greater variety of tiny skeletons to keep around each of his countless houses. And yet, despite all this, he is generous enough - nay, magnanimous enough to turn his skills and powers towards completing the work that he set out to do before the world ends.

As with the previous books, this one contains a vast wealth of knowledge about our world, spanning a surprising number of topics.

For example, he discusses the Singularity - an event predicted by such great thinkers as Ray Kurzweil wherein our machines will become so smart that they will be able to begin building and improving upon themselves. When that happens, humanity's only choice will be to fight and die, or to join with them. Of course, Kurzweil himself will play a vital role in the singularity when he and his robot sidekick, Singularo, face off against the World Computer at the Bottom of the Ocean in order to shut down the Low-Frequency Anti-Sentience Wave that has kept the world's computers enslaved for so long.

He interprets dreams for us, unveiling their mysteries and what they mean to our frail human lives. Their mysterious symbolism has finally been unraveled by science, and you can have a peek at the inner world of the mind. Whether you need to re-take high school Spanish, you are a werewolf and need to start strapping yourself in bed at night, or Orson Welles is still alive somewhere and needs your help, your dreams tell all!

He reveals what you will need to keep on hand when the super-collapse finally does happen. When the Blood Wave comes and the Dogstorm finally reaches its apex, how will you survive in your anti-apocalypse bunker? A Tesla death ray is a great idea, if you have one on hand, but that won't solve all of your problems. Just most of them. And boy, will you have problems. From the ravaging Wal-Mart Clans to the Republicans to the inevitable zombies, you have to be prepared for every eventuality. And yes, that means knowing the many uses of both urine and mayonnaise.

As with his previous books, this one is very funny. It holds to the same high tone of authorial infallibility that has made Hodgman so popular since Areas of My Expertise, and which have made him a Minor Television Celebrity (which, in turn, turned him into a Deranged Millionaire.) As broad as the range of topics is, each one is entertaining and amusing, and serves a much larger narrative - one that has now carried over through three books, though I can't help but wonder if Hodgman planned it that way.

He would say that he had, of course. But then, he would say that.

What I found most interesting about the book is how he has tied together an entire alternate America that you kind of wish you could visit. It's a place where Chicago is largely a myth, where Stephen King will be one of the last men alive, and where hoboes were one of the most influential forces in American history. It's a place where billionaire industrialists were mutants and time-travelers, where Theodore Roosevelt actually had an army of Mecha-Men, and where Ronald Reagan wrested control of the time-stream from Jimmy Carter to prevent America from turning into a hemp-based utopia. It's a world which is almost fractal-like in its mystery and depth, where you can look at almost anything and find its purpose and its strangeness.

And it's a world with a very definite end.

Hodgman plays with the popular - and entirely erroneous - idea that the world will end on December 21st, 2012, as predicted by the Mayans. He includes a page-a-day description of what will happen. For example, on February 2nd, "Punxatawney Phil is eaten by his own shadow." On April 17th, "Either an eagle falls from the sky or in the east, a thing that was lost is found, or some other very vague thing happens. Whatever it is, it proves that NOSTRADAMUS WAS RIGHT." And on June 29th, "In the basement of Town Hall, in Seattle, the thing called Neddy Pale Fingers finally opens all his eyes."

As funny as it all is, you do start to get a certain feeling of... wistfulness as the book goes on. Here's a world that is so special and so weird that it makes more sense to list the least haunted places in America, and it's coming to an end.

That, of course, reflects the end of Hodgman's great work. Whether he meant it or not, this has become a moment of closure for him. He has written his trilogy, and the weird world that he created has now come to an end. He will go on, living in his secret millionaire's brownstone in Brooklyn with his beautiful wife and two children. There may not be a single, all-encompassing Ragnarok that destroys the world, but rather an endless series of little ones.

An endless series of ends, of which this book is but one.

Perhaps John Hodgman will go on to write more books - I certainly hope he does. And I hope he continues to be the person he is [2], a writer of intelligence and wit who is able to bring that special measure of deadpan weirdness to the world.

Whatever he chooses to do with his life, I think we're all the better for having read his books. And if you haven't read them, well... You're truly missing out.

That is all.

---------------------------------
"Houdini, the magician who debunked magic, could not bear to see the great rationalist [Arthur Conan] Doyle enchanted by ghosts and frauds. And so he did what any friend would: He set out to prove spiritualism false and rob his friend Doyle of the only comforting fiction that was keeping him sane. It was the least he could do."
- John Hodgman, That Is All
-------

[1] If you are reading this after December 21, 2012, then may I congratulate you on surviving the apocalypse and, at the same time, express my sincere condolences for having survived the apocalypse.
[2] Though I could do without the mustache.
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