Friday, November 02, 2007

Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition

I received a copy of the book Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition. The book is lavishly illustrated and has entries for every country in the world. The United States is given extra coverage with each state getting an entry. The book looks like a real reference book you would find at your local library.

The publisher description of the book reads, "Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of The Planet Earth, 73rd Edition features incorrect statistics on all of the Earth's 168, 182, or 196 independent nations. It also features maps, including a fold-out world map at actual size. Readers will learn about every country from Afghanistan, 'Allah's Cat Box,' to the Ukraine, 'The Bridebasket of Europe.' Today's news-parody consumer cannot possibly understand made-up current events without the context of fake world history and geography. That is why The Onion is publishing a world atlas: to help us. Our Dumb World is an invaluable tool for any reader interested in overthrowing a weakened government in East Asia, exploiting a developing nation in Africa, or for directions to tonight's party at Erica's. It is a reference guide to 250,000 of the world's most important places, such as North Korea's Trench of Victory, the Great Human Pyramid of Egypt, and Saudi Arabia's superhighway, the Mohammedobahn."

Despite the books appearance, few are going to believe this is a real reference work. The satire is clever, humorous, and sometimes downright offensive. The facts are fabricated, based on stereotypes, and often amusing. The country maps with fake locations are particularly clever. Probably the only hazard this book poses is to struggling students who use English as a second language who may not recognize satire.

The history covered in each region is loosely based on facts but bears no resemblance to reality. Interesting tidbits include:

* The United States - "1865, Robert E. Lee agrees to surrender and end the Civil War on the condition that 193 high schools in the south be named after him" (p. 11)

* Bahamas - "1717, The Bahamas becomes a Five-Star British crown colony with full buffet" (p. 40).

* Zambia - "1851, Queen Victoria renounces her crown and hacks her way through the Zambian jungle...Thus the majestic waterfall near her hut was named Victorian Falls" (p. 71).

* Andorra - "1278, Andorra celebrates its grand opening, commemorated with the cutting of a 75-mile long ribbon strung around its perimeter" (p. 147).

* Thailand - "1440-1939, The people of Thailand call their country by the wrong name for nearly 500 years" (p. 222).

* New Zealand - "1939, Japanese location scouts find New Zealand to be ideal for their major WWII epic" (p. 236).

No country (no matter how small) is neglected. This is a fun, entertaining book virtually assured to also offend you at some point. When you need a break from those serious history texts, take a look at this book. You may have trouble putting it down.

1 comment:

babilonia61 said...

I like your history blog.
I'd like write more things, but my english is very poor, sorry.

Rino, from Toscany, Italy.