David Thorne is kind of a dick. Fortunately for readers of his blog 27b/6, or his book collection The Internet Is A Playground: Irreverent Correspondences Of An Evil Online Genius, he’s a funny dick. Throughout the course of the book, he uses that entertaining dickishness to puncture egos, annoy bureaucrats, and occasionally help himself out. When Thorne is frustrating people like an unctuous would-be “school chaplain” or angry e-mailers who use misspelled homophobic slurs, he looks like a comic genius, sowing confusion among the greatest fools in the world. When he turns those powers to less-palatable aims, like annoying a co-worker who wants a poster announcing that she’s lost her cat, well, at least he’s still funny.
The cat-poster e-mail exchange—“Missing Missy”—is one of Thorne’s most famous pieces, virally spread across the Internet. In another well-known piece, referenced via the cover art, Thorne attempts to pay a chiropractor’s bill with a spider drawing. With much of the book coming from Thorne’s website, some repetition is inevitable. Taken all at once, his shtick becomes clear: respond to an absurd request with a dizzying array of half-relevant stories, outright lies, equally absurd counter-requests, and deliberate misinterpretation, then escalate at every future reply. This has somewhat diminishing returns in book format, as the increasingly familiar format limits the comic impact.
The e-mail exchanges are the best part of The Internet Is A Playground, but other chapters follow different forms. One successful bit involves a live diary of disappointing journeys to local area “attractions” with his children, including lines about how the best part of the journey was “the ride home.”
Thorne spends several other chapters constructing an elaborate mythology for a few characters at his job, including his pompous boss, incompetent receptionist, and overcompensating deliveryman. However, Thorne is generally least interesting when he’s speaking for others, which tends to feel petty and self-aggrandizing. It’s a pity that’s such a large part of the book, given how successful and amusing it is when Thorne can find and destroy a justifiable target.