- STAFF PICKS
- GIFTS + GIFT CARDS
- SELL BOOKS
- FIND A STORE
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Father Knows Less or "Can I Cook My Sister?": One Dad's Quest to Answer His Son's Most Baffling Questionsby Wendell Jamieson
Synopses & Reviews
How a New York Times editor set out to answer the peculiarly marvelous questions of his precocious young son-and wound up on an unexpected journey of his own.
Wendell Jamieson's son, Dean, has always had a penchant for...odd questions. Dad, he asked, apropos of nothing, what would hurt more — getting run over by a car, or getting stung by a jellyfish? Dad, why do policemen like donuts? What's it feel like to get stabbed? Does Mona Lisa wear shoes? Can I cook my sister?
Because Dad was a newspaperman, he decided to seek out answers-and got swept up in the hunt. He spoke to movie directors and ship captains and brain surgeons and stabbing victims and lottery winners and museum curators and politicians and judges and compulsive shoppers and mothers-in-law and magicians — even Yoko Ono and a dominatrix.
But what began as a lark quickly grew into something larger. Blending a charming father-son journey with the surprising, sometimes hilarious questions and answers it spawned, Father Knows Less offers a heartwarming exploration of that childlike curiosity that lives within us all.
"'Jamieson, city editor for the New York Times, whose seven-year-old son, Dean, has been in 'full-bore question mode' for the past few years, decided that the best strategy for giving Dean the answers was also to give himself a challenge. He would get each answer 'from a real person who knows it by heart, whose very livelihood depends on the knowledge' that Jamieson would present without sugarcoating or simplification. The result is a compendium of hilariously insightful questions from kids (age seven and under) with often insightfully hilarious answers from adults ranging from a doctor discussing the difference between somatic and neuropathic pain ('What would hurt more: getting run over by a car or getting stung by a jellyfish?') to a dominatrix explaining Mach 1 air speed ('If you don't hit anything with it, how does a whip make that noise?'). Jamieson helpfully organizes the questions by theme into chapters, although his introductory anecdotes to each, while amusing, should have been drastically reduced to make room for more questions. Too bad this funny and fascinating book is coming out in September: it makes a perfect Father's Day gift for any dad whose child has ever asked, 'Why is the sky blue?' or 'Why do we have eyebrows?' or 'What does 'sexy' mean?' (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I've always suspected that, for many men, the secret thrill of parenthood is hero worship. Up to the age of 12, many kids treat their fathers the way fathers wish their wives would — as kings of the family castle. In my experience, this is manifested along two equally wonderful tracks. One is the hugs and squeals that greet the father's entrance into his domain. My wife does this, too. Well, once.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) If memory serves, it was June 1988. I think there was a tax refund involved. The other track involves questions. You know: Daddy, where does earwax come from? Daddy, why does Rover smell his ... well, you get the picture. Questions allow fathers to bask in the role of Oracle and Fount of All Knowledge. This is heady stuff. Most fathers know the easy answers and bluff their way through the tough ones. The other day, my 11-year-old, deeply engaged in his first Shakespeare, hit me with 'Dad, what does forsooth mean?' I said, 'Yo.' He smiled, kissed me on the cheek and said, 'Thanks, Dad.' King, baby! King! But there is a certain breed of intellectual father who wants to answer these questions with, you know, actual true facts. For him, two new books have arrived: 'Father Knows Less,' by Wendell Jamieson, and 'The Book of General Ignorance,' by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. Both books offer answers to scads of tough questions. The book to buy is Jamieson's. You think your family throne is wobbly? Read this. You'll extend your reign by years. Jamieson, an editor at the New York Times, pads 'Father' with all manner of stories about his family's life in Brooklyn. While nice enough, this is standard Bob Greene/Bill Geist material. What makes the book worth reading is the questions Jamieson researches to sate his son Dean's curiosity. He makes it a family project. He and Dean actually track down experts to get the facts. For instance, in an attempt to confirm that chewing gum really does take seven years to pass from one's body, they interview the head scientist at Wrigley. It turns out that while there's not much data on the topic, the man from Wrigley is pretty sure we're talking days here, not years. Why does your skin wrinkle in the water? The Jamiesons go to the magician David Blaine, who once submerged himself for 177 hours, presumably making him the world's expert on shrinkage. Blaine, whom I had dismissed as a bit of a blowhard, crafts a wonderful and surprisingly focused explanation. While father and son wander wide in their search for knowledge, the best entries in the book relate to bodily pains and functions. My kids are sadly past the earwax stage, but I'm gonna find someone to ask me about it anyway because I can really nail that mother now. Oh, and the post-Popsicle brain freeze? That's here. How many hairs on a human head? That's here, too. The answer, it turns out, is about 100,000. Of course, forget the kids, these are just the things I wanted to know. There are lots of questions here my two boys never asked. Are rainbows hot or cold? Why does the chef wear a big white hat? Why is it red for stop and green for go? Oh, and my favorite: Why are the roads in car commercials always wet? Jamieson finds an expert for every one. Daddy, what's a record? The Jamiesons ask Dick Clark. Priceless. The same, alas, cannot be said for 'The Book of General Ignorance.' I suspect the problem with this book is that the authors are British. They provide answers to dozens of questions, a few of which, like the one about missionaries in cannibal pots, are interesting enough. But too many of their answers are only technically correct. For example: What's the world's tallest mountain? Their answer: Hawaii's Mauna Kea, which is actually taller than Mount Everest if you measure from the sea floor. All right, technically, they're correct. But it's a smart aleck's answer. Trust me on this. If your child tries Mauna Kea at school, he's gonna get beat up. When did World War II end? According to Lloyd and Mitchinson, 1990. Apparently someone forgot to sign something. Anyway, these are the kind of cutesy answers that will leave your children bloodied and scarred for life. The entire book, in fact, left me worried about the British educational system. Are there people over there who really want to know what was odd about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Or what dolphins drink? Or what German uniforms were made of in World War I? Or, here's a good one, how many penises a European earwig really has? I mean, who even knows what an earwig is? These aren't questions anyone would actually ask. These are factoids the authors have found and formed into questions. 'General Ignorance' is at best a bathroom book. I'm sure your British guests will stay in there chuckling for hours. Oh, just in case you were wondering, the earwig thing? The answer is two. They keep a spare because the first one tends to break. Who knew? Bryan Burrough is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair." Reviewed by Bryan Burrough, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
New York Times editor Jamieson set out to answer the peculiar questions of his young son and wound up on an unexpected journey of his own, in this charming father-son journey.
Kids ask the darndest questions—and the answers make for a “funny and fascinating”(Publishers Weekly) book.
Wendell Jamieson’s son, Dean, has always had a penchant for asking odd questions. “Dad, what would hurt more—getting run over by a car, or getting stung by a jellyfish?” “Dad, why do policemen like donuts?” “Dad, does Mona Lisa wear shoes?” Because Dad is a newspaperman and city editor for The New York Times, he decided to seek out the real answers to Dean’s questions from top experts—movie directors and ship captains, brain surgeons and stabbing victims, a Buddhist monk and a bra fitter, and even Yoko Ono. Their father-son journey for answers to the tough—and weird—questions of life is a sometimes surprising, often hilarious, and always fascinating celebration of the value and beauty of childlike curiosity.
Watch a QuickTime trailer for this book.
About the Author
Wendell Jamieson, city editor for The New York Times, has been a newspaperman for twenty years. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Helene Stapinski, and their two children, three-year-old Paulina and seven-year-old Dean — who figures prominently in Father Knows Less.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like