Synopses & Reviews
Playing catch with a rattlesnake. Shooting oneself while explaining gun safety. Crashing a small plane in an attempt to moon the occupants of a similarly low-flying plane. People have met their fates performing these extraordinarily stupid acts-and for this they have been finalists for the wildly popular Darwin Awards. While these awards are relatively recent, the history of stupidity is quite long. Stupidity, in fact, is as old as civilization itself, and, as "The Encyclopaedia of Stupidity lucidly demonstrates, one can't exist without the other.
Matthijs van Boxsel's rollicking compendium of human follies and foibles is like no other encyclopedia. Cataloging acts of stupidity past and present, van Boxsel introduces us to a world in which peasants collect water with a sieve, men attempt to build towers without ladders, and "village idiots" and "dumb blondes" prove the veracity of the stereotypes-a world that we call home. Van Boxsel's intent is not only to provide laughs on every page, which he does, but also to show readers how stupidity is the foundation of civilization. Through such anecdotes as "The Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain" and "The Hell of Fools," he dissects the idea of stupidity and finds that it is a crucial condition for intelligence, that blunders stimulate progress, and that failure is the basis for success.
Hailed as a "warming, enlightening, and invigorating read" ("Manchester Evening News) and a "weirdly wonderful compilation" ("Observer), "The Encyclopaedia of Stupidity quietly instructs while it uproariously entertains, making the unassailable point that to err is indeed to be human.
Matthijs van Boxsel believes that no one is intelligent enough to understand their own stupidity. In The Encyclopædia of Stupidity
he shows how stupidity manifests itself in all areas, in everyone, at all times, proposing that stupidity is the foundation of our civilization.
In short sections with such titles as ‘The Blunderers Club, ‘Fools in Hell, ‘Genealogy of Idiots, and ‘The Aesthetics of the Empty Gesture, stupidity is analysed on the basis of fairy tales, cartoons, triumphal arches, garden architecture, Baroque ceilings, jokes, flimsy excuses and science fiction. But Van Boxsel wants to do more than just assemble a ‘shadow cabinet of wisdom; he tries to fathom the logic of this opposite world. Where do understanding and intelligence begin and end? He examines mythic fools such as Cyclops and King Midas, cities such as Gotham, archetypes including the dumb blonde, and traditionally stupid animals such as the goose, the donkey and the headless chicken.
Van Boxsel posits that stupidity is a condition for intelligence, that blunders stimulate progress, that failure is the basis for success. In this erudite and witty book he maintains that our culture is the product of a series of failed attempts to comprehend stupidity.
About the Author
Matthijs van Boxsel
is a literary historian who lives in Amsterdam.
Table of Contents
I. The Black Flag
II. The Blunderers' Club
III. Fallor, the Aerobat
IV. The Ha-Ha
V. Simpletons in Hell
VI. The Genealogy of Dullards
VII. On the Inherent Stupidity of Constitutional Monarchies
—1. Stupidity as the Basis of Civilization
—2. Man is a Grape
—3. The Trifling Difference
—4. Election Fever
—5. Frogs, Logs, Snakes and Masks (Twelve Uneasy Pieces)
—6. The Emperor's New Clothes
VIII. The Darwin Awards
—2. The Missing Link
—3. Holy Madness
—6. The Stupidity of Encyclopaedias