I promised to let you know how I got on with the books I’m reading at the moment, and whether or not they lived up to their one-word reviews on the cover. The first that I tackled was How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World by Francis Wheen, which was rated as "Hilarious" by Jeremy Paxman.
I’m not sure I agree with Paxo.
Now, please don’t get me wrong – this is a very good and thought-provoking book. It is, in essence, an appeal for rationality in an irrational world. He challenges not only thinkers and opinion formers (ranging from the likes of Noam Chomsky and Al Gore on one hand, through to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan on the other, and not forgetting a good swipe at the Bible and the Koran on the way through) but also the likes of you and I to use a more rational approach to our appraisal of the world and our own situation. Definitely recommended and well worth reading, but only likely to raise an odd "goodness! how ironic!" chortle every now and then rather than anything that could be described as hilarity.
The one bit that is hilarious, however, is the index. Let me give you a few quotes:
- claims descent from Abraham, 165;
- defends secondary picketing, 216;
- defends teaching of creationism, 7, 113-15;
- displays coat-hangers, 224;
- emotional guy, 205, 207, 210, 212;
- explores Third Way, 226;
- likes chocolate-cake recipe, 51;
Lacan, Jacques, 79, 91-2;
- mistakes his penis for a square root, 88-9;
Peters, Tom, 234;
- discovers secret of success, 41;
- flails and sweats, 50-1;
- discovers secret of failure, 62;
- thrives on chaos, 63;
and, most brilliantly,
- accepted by Newton, 4;
- angered by feminists and gays, 183;
- appoints American coal-owners, 25;
- approves of laissez-faire economics, 27;
- arrives in America, 158;
- asked by Khomeini to cut off foreigners’ hands, ix;
- believed to have created humans 10,000 years ago, 103;
- could have made intelligent sponges, 109;
- doesn’t foresee Princess Diana’s death, 154;
- helps vacuum-cleaner saleswoman, 45;
- interested in diets, 95;
- offers investment advice, 48;
- praised by Enron chairman, 277;
- produces first self-help manual, 53;
Brilliant. And you can quote me on that.
Next up: Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival which, in light of Wheen’s comments, should make interesting reading. (In fact, I’ve only got to page 8 and have already found evidence to support Wheen’s point of view).