Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'm Not A Dummy

I finally picked up a copy of the very good Freemasons for Dummies by Chris Hodapp. I had read nothing but good things about it, and I paged through it briefly in a bookstore when I was first getting interested (casually, so I thought) in Freemasonry a few weeks ago. I'm looking forward to getting a fairly complete overview.

It always pains me to buy any "For Dummies" book, though. I appreciate the fact that there's a publisher out there who is trying to put out gentle introductory material in a form that's easy to digest, but why did they have to choose that unfortunate name? The implication is that if you're not an expert, you're a dummy.

When I re-read Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard recently, one passage leapt right off of the page at me:
"A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions."
The "For Dummies" titles bug me in the same way that the word hobby does. Most people are not lucky enough to make a living doing what they would really like to be doing, so they pursue those passions as their spare time and money allow. But if you're talking to someone at a party, the first thing they're going to ask is what you do for a living... and if it later slips out that you really enjoy playing music, or researching your family's history and genealogy, or building furniture in your spare time, well, that's "just a hobby." Way to trivialize what makes a person tick!

I certainly don't mean to speak ill of Chris Hodapp's fine work on Freemasons for Dummies... I just bought a copy, didn't I? I just wish the Dummies people had chosen a more encouraging catch phrase, perhaps something like for the Curious. I'm curious about lots of stuff. I'd buy a lot of books from a series with a title like that, which didn't imply some kind of deficiency on my part.


Widow's Son said...

Agreed. I don't like the "...for Dummies" or "Idiot's Guide to..." titles, either.

We had this conversation on Burning Taper last year. You can see that a lot of people agree with us.

But those titles SELL. As good as Bro. Morris's and Bro. Hodapp's books are, they wouldn't sell nearly as well if they weren't part of those franchises. The public is familiar with those lines.

Widow's Son

A.C. said...

It's true. After watching the pile of crap that was "Freemason Underworld" last night, I'm half-wishing the Dummies/Idiots people would launch a network of their own.