The Future Dictionary of America - various authors

I was very tempted to write a dictionary definition as my review, but I was afraid that was a little too gosh-isn't-that-clever, and that I had enough to say about this book that my definition would suffer the same problems as some of the definitions in the book itself—but more on that later. The book calls itself "an unprecedented book-CD package to benefit progressive causes featuring over 200 of America's best writers, artists & musicians." It's published by McSweeney's, with their usual style and random pages of densely-printed information, and the aforementioned "progressive causes" are people like Common Assets and the Sierra Club. I won't get into the CD much (which I enjoyed but didn't really listen to all that much) and will focus mostly on the book itself. I believe the CD ("Future Soundtrack for America" is available by itself as well. It's not really the sort of book you sit down and read cover-to-cover—it's more the sort you buy, flip through occasionally to find a clever entry, and then put it back. Unless you're like me, in which case you read the whole thing so you can return it to the library before the due date.

The basic idea is that hundreds of writers and artists contributed words for this dictionary from some unspecified time in America's future. Of course there are many that refer, either directly or indirectly, to the current administration, such as

colin-powow n. a meeting or gathering in which subordinates express opinions, often well-considered and passionate, that are ultimately dismissed by superiors.

Of course, most of the definitions involving current administration officials are derogatory, some more virulent than others.

There are some really great terms and definitions; for anybody who remembers "Sniglets" this is sort of a grownup version (cf. "spunctual adj. excited, on time, and excited to be on time.") Not all of the words are political; quite a few are more pun-based or just clever plays on words. However, as you might expect from a hastily-assembled collaboration of over 200 writers, the quality and style of the work is inconsistent. Some writers better at making dictionary definitions than others; others are simply writing short stories, it seems.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 15, 2004 | Comments (0)


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