Aug 15, 2006

Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?

J. Peder Zane sees the rise in trivia books as a symptom of what he calls "jolt culture."

Jolt Culture is often conflated with the "dumbing-down" of America. They are, undoubtedly, partners in crime. Trivia books -- which strip meaning from knowledge, providing us with information but the not the context we need to apply it -- embody this relationship. At bottom, they provide us with fleeting sensation. It is not only neat to know that Luxembourg has the highest gross domestic product per capita of any nation ($58,900 per person, according to the 2005 CIA World Factbook) or that an average apple has 47 calories. Such trivia is also strangely satisfying. Like celebrity shots in People magazine, or a Keith Olbermann rant, it holds our attention to the point of mesmerism. Until -- a few seconds later -- it's over.
I always think of trivia books as the province of pre-adolescent boys. At age 10, my son would spend hours poring over The Guiness Book of World Records. Of course, some boys never grow up--like the characters in Nick Hornby books--which may or may not be symptomatic of the culture as a whole.

Via A&L Daily.

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