Wednesday January 12th, 2011

A Love Letter to Dwight

garnerTimothy Noah at Slate recently wrote a love letter to the reviews of the New York Times’ Dwight Garner. Noah says, “It’s harder than you might think to produce good writing about bad writing.” I’m not sure it’s harder than producing good writing about good writing, but in any case, Garner is good at every aspect of the game.

It was nice to see Noah’s appreciation, especially since I’ve been meaning to share a few paragraphs from Garner’s take on Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, which Noah calls “one of the funniest book reviews I’ve ever read.” It is perhaps an exhibit in the case that bad writing is easier to write about, given the plethora of material it provides and the heavy lifting the excerpts do in entertaining the reader. (Under a tight deadline, would you rather write 1,000 words praising Middlemarch or the same number mocking Going Rogue?) But there’s certainly skill involved in putting it all together and producing your own laughs. A taste:

Everything about Mr. Ferriss’ book declares: This is not your auntie’s self-help book. No muffled “I’m OK — You’re OK” tone here. The vibe is: I’m Superbad, bro, and I have dimples. You’re a mole person who, if you become an angel investor in my books, might someday touch the hem of my Speedo.

In his previous book, The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (his subtitles are awesome), which was on the hardcover advice best-seller list for more than 75 weeks, he delivered tips like (I’m exaggerating only slightly): hire an overseas virtual assistant for a few bucks an hour and use the extra time to ski in the Andes.

His new one, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, made its debut at No. 1 on the hardcover advice list on Jan. 2. It’s among the craziest, most breathless things I’ve ever read, and I’ve read Klaus Kinski, Dan Brown and Snooki.