Before he appeared on The Daily Show to promote his first book, The Areas Of My Expertise, John Hodgman was only a former professional literary agent with an occasional McSweeney's column ("Ask A Former Professional Literary Agent"). Thanks to the serendipitous harmony between Hodgman's alternative universe, in which hobos await the signal to take over American government, and The Daily Show's incredulity about our supposedly factual universe, Hodgman was given a recurring slot as the show's Resident Expert, and a role as the bumbling PC in a series of Apple computer ads. And thanks to these achievements of tenuous, cable-level celebrity, Hodgman was able to complete the second in his planned trilogy of invented-trivia books, More Information Than You Require.
The new volume is in every way a continuation of Areas, except in the ways it's clearly superior. For example, the page numbering continues from the first installment, beginning with the table of contents on page 237. Yet the book doubles as a not-so-handy page-a-day calendar featuring fake-toids on the theme "Today In The Past," progressing from the title page ("October 21, 2008, New York City: This book is officially published") to the image credits ("October 20, 1982, Virginia: Day 486 of the constant rain of dead frogs"). Each calendar page also features the continuation of a loose narrative of a better world, in which moon-faced humor editors get to make cameo appearances on Battlestar Galactica(possibly as the final Cylon) and use their enormous wealth to finance a feature-film version of the TV program The Adventures Of Brisco County, Jr.("Let's face it: It's time.")
Hodgman's work delivers the salted-peanuts effect of trivia collections without any of the danger of accidental cultural literacy. His avuncular, quasi-Edwardian style acquires a downmarket memoir-ish patina in More Information, meditating abashedly on sudden semi-fame. But such asides detract little from useless disinformation about the presidents (which ones had hooks for hands?), gambling ("Sure Thing Number One: Roulette"), get-rich-slow schemes ("door-to-door sales of doors"), and in a blatant bid to create another Internet meme, mole-men. ("The Mole-Men: Are They The New Hoboes?") More Information Than You Requireis exactly the tonic for these truth-challenged times: a transformation of pedestrian reality through the enlightened power of imagination and insatiable list-making.