The Complete Idiot's Guide For Dummies
1) Eat less
2) Exercise more
3) Check out this handy food pyramid!
4) More water, less soda
5) Snackwells do not cause rapid weight loss
[Did the "Complete IDIOT's Guide" fitness plan involve lugging around a hefty tome in lieu of a flimsy pamphlet?]
I am fascinated with The "Complete Idiot's Guide" series, as well as the "[Insert Topic Here] For Dummies" series, as they appear to be a uniquely American phenomenon.
On jury duty I met a former stenographer from Miami who had a dog-eared copy of "Feng Shui For Dummies" in her clear plastic purse. She was really funny and we had bloody marys on our lunch break. I wish I had thought to ask her why she had chosen that particular book as her initiation into feng shui, in lieu of "Principles of Feng Shui?" "Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness?" "A Master Course in Feng Shui?" "The Complete IDIOT's Guide to Feng Shui?" Would she have said, "Well, I'm no IDIOT, but "dummy"'s kind of cute!" evoking the same bashful aw-shucks naiveté women often affect in order to get guys to install their air-conditioners?
Why "For Dummies" and not "For Beginners?"
Because the increasing virulent anti-intellectualism in our country is propagating a culture of shame surrounding the desire to learn. In America, the literate ectomorph who loves French New Wave films is a de facto faggot: girls fear being rejected by the boy they like for being smarter. Obviously readers are out there longing to explore the subjects covered in the Complete Idiot's Guides to Understanding Islam/Knitting and Crocheting/Amazing Sex/Laborador Retrievers/The Arctic and Antarctica, and Texas Hold’Em -- why must they a priori demean themselves for their natural curiosity?
This series' very existence is a rueful collective apologia for the desire to learn. It's the same shame expressed in half the country's insistence that W's inability to speak a simple sentence was proof of his down-home honest humility, while Kerry was one of those "know-it-all" liberals. It's "Idiot Pride" -- Declare yourself an "idiot" from the get-go, and if you don't end up getting anywhere, why, shucks -- no one can fault you!
As an experiment, I went to www.amazon.fr and did a search for "idiot." It gave me two categories: "Books in English" followed by "Books." Under “books,” my top four options were:
L'idiot du village: fantaisie romanesque (The Village Idiot: A Romanesque Fantasy)
Dostoyevsky's The Idiot
L'idiot chinois (The Chinese Idiot)
Métamorphoses de l'idiot
"Books in English" yielded: "The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Texas Hold'Em."